DENVER, COLORADO – A Colorado man has been found guilty of conspiracy, health care fraud, illegal gratuities as well as kickbacks. Combined, are charges of a conflict of interest and money laundering. The defendant is one Joseph Prince, age 60, resident of Aurora, Colorado, and former employee for the Veterans Affairs (V.A.). Raymond P. Moore, a U.S. District Court Judge, presided over the eight-day trial that left Prince confronting house arrest while he faces a pending sentence.
Prince worked for the V.A. as a Beneficiary Provider Relationships Expert where he participated in the Spina Bifida (S.B.) Health Care Benefits Programme (SBHCBP) offered by the Veterans Affairs. This is a program that tries to benefit the children of veterans of both Vietnam and Korea that suffer from S.B. Working in the V.A.’s Denver call center, Prince was able to speak to health care providers as well as S.B. beneficiaries regarding the needs of their health along with reimbursement.
Prince was able to defraud the SBHCBP when he was able to have associates run a scam with home health entities while Prince would sign up the family members as ‘contractors.’ The 60-year-old Aurora resident was fully aware that these home health entities were a sham and had not been authorized providers concerning the V.A. Even though bills were not by approved providers, family members were still urged to submit any bills. Prince went on to incorporate the bills into services that were not provided by the V.A. or were just not allowed.
After this, he accepted home health entity payments that he had made to those agencies himself. These led to referrals that came to a total of $20 million that originated from the V.A. to the home health agencies that were related to Prince. Associates included friends, his brother-in-law, half-sister as well as his wife.
In the end, about 45 S.B. beneficiaries were referred to as false home health entities by Prince. The total amount SBHCBP had to pay in fraudulent accounts came close to $19 million. At least $1.5 million came back to Prince in kickbacks emanating from December 2017 to June 2018.
Jason Dunn, a U.S. Attorney, stated that it was reprehensible stealing from a program that was intended to help not only veterans but also their children who suffer daily from various medical conditions. Dunn added the severity this type of crime had of the American taxpayer who is now forced to pay the price for his actions.
The Veteran’s Affairs boasts the largest health care network integrated with 1,255 facilities that are able to serve the 9 million Veterans that enroll each year. One of the V.A.’s goals is to use the Veterans Benefits Administration to help service members into a smooth transition out of the military assisting with various things such as life insurance, education, and home loans. The VA prides itself on having a high moral principle.
The Veterans Association Office of Inspector General, Gregg Hirstein stated that since Prince was a V.A. official himself, the crime comes as more of a troubling note. The VA’s Office of Inspector General stays true in holding those accountable that have tried to enrich themselves through programs set up by the V.A. intended to help veterans as well as those who depend on them. It was thanks to a joint effort with the investigative agencies as well as the U.S Attorney’s Office that this theft could come to a quick end.
A large portion of kickbacks Prince received was seen by Any Tsui as insulting to the government programs that were meant in aiding the public. Tsui, an agent with the IRS Criminal Investigation Unit in Denver, was adamant in his position that such an abuse of trust was unacceptable and that the IRS was going to seek full justice in the matter.
The collaboration with the U.S Attorney’s Office, along with the FBI, sees the conviction of Prince as a significant one. They hold the defendant accountable for having his position abused as this is a direct reflection on the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
Roland Vaughn, a co-conspirator to Joseph Prince, pled guilty after admitting to paying a public official an illegal gratuity on August 1, 2019. Vaughn’s sentence is scheduled on April 19, 2020, by Judge Moore. Friends of Price, Catherine, and Glen Beach pleaded guilty in paying Prince a gratuity. Their cases have been scheduled for April 1, 2020.
Prince will have to wait until June 11, 2020, before he is sentenced. He faces Conflict of Interest charges carrying penalties of up to 5 years in jail with an added $250,000 in fines. Joseph Prince may also be looking at charges of 5 years in prison on his part to commit a conspiracy aimed against the United States.
On the lighter spectrum, the act of either soliciting or receiving illegal gratuities is accompanied by a prison sentence of not more than two years whereas Prince has to face down Unlawful Monetary Transactions which comes with a maximum of 10 years while another ten-year sentence may be added for health care fraud with another fine of up to $250,000. What Prince would have to be worried about the most would be the Money Laundering charges, which carry a 20-year maximum penalty and a fine of no more than $500,000.
The government will be attempting to seek specific assets and restitution that will be forfeited to the Veterans Health Administration for the approximate amount of $19 million. The case will be prosecuted by Hetal J. Doshi and Anna K. Edgar, Assistant United States Attorneys.
Veterans Affairs is made up of Americans who have served the country honorably and are looking to make a meaningful impact on the health and safety of veterans.
Health care fraud robs those that have served us in times of dire peril and puts that money directly into the hands of the corrupt.
You can serve your county too by reporting any misdeeds in the V.A. by calling 888-402-4054 now.