Assistant U. S. Attorneys Dylan M. Aste (619) 546-7621 and Valerie H. Chu (619) 546-6750
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – December 6, 2021
SAN DIEGO – Anthony Medrano, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and former employee of the Veterans Administration, was sentenced in federal court today to eight months in custody for defrauding the Department of Veterans Affairs out of more than $183,000.
According to his plea agreement, Medrano admitted that between approximately November 2015 and May 2020, he submitted claims to the Veterans Administration (VA) in which he purported to be disabled so that he could obtain caregiver benefits for his wife, when he was actually able-bodied and even participating in fitness challenges and coaching youth sports.
Medrano executed this scheme while employed in the VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration as a Veterans Service Representative, a position in which he explained benefit programs and entitlement criteria to veterans applying for VA benefits. As a representative, Medrano’s responsibilities included adjudicating claims, authorizing payments, and inputting data necessary to generate the award and notification letter to the veteran. After the Veterans Benefits Administration authorizes payment, the Veterans Benefits Administration—a separate VA branch—administers the payment to disabled veterans who require substantial caregiving and need assistance to pay for such care. Using the knowledge gained from his VA employment, Medrano stole $183,034.38 from the VA through a series of lies.
According to court documents, Medrano first lied during the physician evaluation conducted to determine eligibility in the Caregiver Support Program. Medrano lied about needing high-level assistance for daily activities (e.g., dressing and undressing himself, personal hygiene, grooming), and he lied about needing high-level assistance in other activities (e.g., planning and organizing, recent memory, self-regulation). Medrano tricked the VA into awarding him assistance that paid the primary caregiver -his wife - an amount equivalent to a full-time home health aide’s 40-hour-per-week payment.
Medrano’s lies continued for years so that the money would keep coming in. Medrano told VA representatives that he was unemployed since 2012 and unable to work; his caregiver was “doing everything” for him, including washing his back while bathing. He said that he could not stand for more than 5-10 minutes; and he could not lift more than 20 pounds. But while Medrano was making those statements, he was employed, he was washing his own back, and was often lifting weights greater than 20 pounds while working out.
For example, immediately following an active-duty stint in the United States Marine Corps, the VA fully employed Medrano from March 2013 through February 19, 2021. Medrano was also walking, jogging, and coaching youth sports teams while stating he could not stand for more than 5-10 minutes. And only a few weeks after stating he could not lift more than 20 pounds, Medrano posted videos of himself on Facebook participating in the “push-up challenge,” doing push-ups with a 25-pound weight on his back.
In court, prosecutor Dylan M. Aste noted that, due to his position, Medrano knew the inner workings of the VA’s approval requirements for disability benefits and used that insider information to exploit the VA system and steal $183,000 from the VA and disabled veterans in need of such benefits programs.
“This defendant used his position to game the system at the expense of those with legitimate claims and taxpayers in general,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “It’s not only outrageous when an undeserving person claims a disability. It’s also a crime. And unfortunately for this defendant, he is going to jail.” Grossman thanked the prosecution team and the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, for their excellent work on this case.
“Our nation’s service-disabled veterans receive a wide variety of benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Unfortunately, some veterans fraudulently misrepresent their situation to obtain benefits they do not deserve,” said Special Agent in Charge Rebeccalynn Staples of the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General’s Western Field Office. “The VA OIG remains committed to diligently pursuing these cases in an effort to maintain the integrity of VA programs.”
To report fraud in a VA program, call the VA-OIG hotline at 1-800-488-8244 or visit https://www.va.gov/oig/hotline/.
DEFENDANT Case Number 21cr01071-BAS
Anthony Medrano Age: 42 Spring Valley, CA
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Theft of Government Property – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 641
Maximum penalty: Ten years in prison and $500,000 fine
United States Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Office of the Inspector General
Department of Justice
Office of the U.S. Attorney
Southern District of California