WWII hero's son admits that he cashed dead dad's VA checks
HONOLULU — The son of a celebrated World War II 442nd Regimental Combat Team veteran admitted in U.S. District Court on Thursday that he continued to cash his father's military disability checks more than six years after he died.
Charles T. Takahashi, 62, pleaded guilty to stealing $202,662 from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He faces a maximum 10-year prison term and $250,000 fine at sentencing in March. He also will have to pay back the money he stole.
The younger Takahashi said he never told the VA of the death and to stop the disability payments after his father, Suguru A. Takahashi, died March 2, 2006, at age 85.
Instead, Takahashi withdrew the money from the joint bank account he and his father shared whenever the VA made a deposit, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence Tong.
The monthly payments were about $2,400 in 2006 and increased to about $2,800 in August.
When investigators questioned Takahashi about the money, he told them he used it to pay mortgage and bar expenses, Tong said.
Tong said Takahashi pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in October by telephone from his home on Maui because he didn't have the money to travel to Oahu.
The elder Takahashi was a member of the storied 442nd during the war and participated in the famous rescue of Texas' Lost Battalion in the Vosges Mountains of eastern France. The 442nd, made up of Japanese-Americans, was the most decorated unit of its size.
A larger-than-life-size cutout of a wartime photograph of Takahashi is one of the displays at the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center in Kahului.
The younger Takahashi is an officer of the 442nd Maui Veterans Council.