Woman sentenced for stealing VA money intended for homeless vets
NASHVILLE – Birdie Anderson, 56, of Nashville, was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell to serve two years in prison for making false statements to the Department of Veterans Affairs and stealing public money, according to David Rivera, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee.
Anderson pleaded guilty in April 2013 to stealing the money obtained in three VA grants, totaling more than $364,000 during 2006 and 2007, which was intended to assist indigent and homeless veterans.
“This is a truly egregious violation,” said Rivera. “There is no group as worthy of government assistance as those who have served their country in the military, and have since fallen on hard times. This defendant’s greed and deception deprived that group of assistance they needed, and as a result they will not receive the benefit of the money she stole and squandered. Hopefully others like defendant who may be tempted to take advantage of government programs that are intended to help others will take heed of this case.”
According to testimony at the hearing, in April 2007 Anderson obtained the first VA grant of $80,000 to buy a dwelling. The grant agreement specified she would not be required to repay the grant on condition she would maintain the property as a residence for homeless veterans for a period of seven years.
She represented the property was worth $124,000 and she had the rest of the money on hand in cash for the purchase. In truth she did not have the balance of the purchase price in cash, but instead took out a mortgage loan of $75,000 to buy the property.
She then used only about $55,000 of the $80,000 cash grant provided by VA to close on the property, and simply kept the rest. She made only one payment on the mortgage and defaulted on the loan. Though the property was used to house veterans for a period of time, it has been repossessed and is no longer available to veterans as a home.
In December 2007, Anderson received a second grant of $25,000, which she said she would combine with matching funds to buy a $40,000 specialty van for use in transporting veterans to medical appointments and job interviews. Anderson submitted a sales contract and a vehicle identification number for the van she represented she was going to buy in support of her grant application. She received and kept the cash VA deposited into her bank account, but simply never bought the van.
In March 2009, Anderson applied for and got a third VA grant of more than $250,000 for the purchase of a large apartment building worth $398,000. Anderson again said she would maintain this building as a residential dwelling for homeless veterans, and the city of Nashville had agreed to provide the matching funds for the purchase.
In support of this representation, Anderson submitted a letter, which purported to have been sent by the director of the Nashville Commission on Homelessness, and which represented Nashville had committed the balance of funds needed for this purchase. The letter was later determined to be a forgery.
Anderson received the VA grant funds but never closed on the property, since she did not, in fact, have any matching funds. When VA officials inquired of Anderson regarding the fact that no purchase had happened, she falsely represented she was undergoing cancer treatments.
The matter was referred to the VA Office of Inspector General for investigation. Agents executed a search warrant on Anderson’s Nashville home in February 2012. No money was located, but agents discovered hundreds of receipts demonstrating gambling activity at regional casinos and horse tracks. A review of her bank records likewise revealed numerous checks written to and debit card use at such establishments, during 2007 through 2009.
Anderson told agents the $250,000 cash from the third grant was in a safe in New Hampshire. Further investigation, however, disclosed no such safe or cash maintained on Anderson’s behalf and none of the grant money was ever recovered.
“The VA Grant and Per Diem Program’s goal is to promote the development of supportive housing and services to assist homeless veterans achieve residential stability, increased skills and obtain greater independence,” said Monty Stokes, special agent in charge with the VA Office of Inspector General. “Because of the successful investigative and prosecutive efforts of the VA OIG and the U.S. attorney’s office, Birdie Anderson’s greed and deception will not go unchecked. She will have the next two years to contemplate if it was really worth it.”
The Nashville VA Office of Inspector General investigated the case, which was prosecuted by assistant U.S. attorney Hilliard Hester.