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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — A certified nursing assistant in Eastern North Carolina is accused of moving a disabled veteran with dementia into her home only to steal his retirement benefits.

Now she’s going to prison.

Tracey McNeill was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison on Friday after she pleaded guilty to wire fraud earlier this year, prosecutors in the Eastern District of North Carolina said. The 51-year-old was also ordered to pay $90,003 in restitution.

A defense attorney representing McNeill, who is from Raeford, did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment on Monday.

Raeford is in Hoke County, about 88 miles south of Raleigh.

Prosecutors said the case dates to February 2015, when McNeill got durable power of attorney over financial and health care matters for an individual identified in court filings as W.R.

W.R. was a disabled veteran who served in the U.S. Army and worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 41 years, prosecutors said.

As such, he received thousands of dollars a month in disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which manages retirement benefits for federal employees.

W.R. was diagnosed with dementia, prosecutors said, and his medical records showed an “inability to recall recent events and impaired decision making.” It was around this time that McNeill took over as power of attorney, according to an indictment filed in October 2020.

Prosecutors said McNeill moved W.R. into her house and signed forms allowing for his VA and retirement benefits to be deposited into bank accounts in her name. She added W.R. to the accounts in March 2015, and she started receiving his benefits in April, the indictment states. By June of the same year, prosecutors said, McNeill had also filled out forms identifying herself as the sole beneficiary of his retirement funds and life insurance.

Over the next year and a half, McNeill reportedly received $90,003 worth of benefits on W.R.’s behalf. Prosecutors said she spent the money on rent, utilities, credit card payments and personal expenses.

W.R. died in December 2016. According to the indictment, he was 68 years old.

The following day, McNeill is accused of contacting his life insurance provider to notify them of his death and request paperwork to file a claim for death benefits, which she submitted in January 2017, the indictment states.

Minus the cost of W.R.’s funeral, McNeill reportedly received about $17,533 in life insurance proceeds.

It wasn’t immediately clear how investigators discovered the alleged fraud, but court filings show McNeill was arrested on Oct. 29, 2020. She was released the same day.

McNeill pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in July.

A federal judge recommended she serve her time at FCI Alderson, a minimum security prison in West Virginia. A date for her surrender has not been set.

©2021 The Charlotte Observer

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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

A wooden gavel and block is seen inside the Senate Hart Building in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, March 3, 2015.
A wooden gavel and block is seen inside the Senate Hart Building in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, March 3, 2015. (Carlos Bongioanni/Stars and Stripes)
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