A federal court sentenced a former Navy chief petty officer to 30 months in jail for his role in scamming $2 million from a life insurance program that assists seriously injured service members, federal officials announced Tuesday.
Christopher Toups, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in October 2022, admitted to conspiring with his then-spouse, former Navy nurse Kelene McGrath, and Navy doctor Michael Villarroel to submit fabricated claims for life insurance payments, according to the Justice Department’s Southern California District.
His plea agreement says those involved in the scam garnered $2 million from fraudulent claims submitted to the Traumatic Servicemembers Group Life Insurance Program, of which Toups received roughly $400,000.
“Lying and stealing funds meant for injured service members is appalling,” U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath said in a Justice Department news release. “The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to protecting those who serve.”
Toups submitted personal claims for fake, embellished injuries and disabilities, and also encouraged other Navy service members to submit their own claims — occasionally instructing them to submit medical records to McGrath, the Justice Department said.
McGrath would then forge medical records to detail farfetched or fake injuries, while Villaroel would sign off on the records.
Toups admitted he also pushed those who received claim payments to provide him with some of the cash as part of a “processing fee,” which was occasionally shared with McGrath and Villarroel.
The Justice Department said that Toups and others also “conducted financial transactions in amounts under $10,000 to evade perceived financial reporting requirements,” according to a news release.
The Department of the Navy and service members fund the Traumatic Servicemembers Group Life Insurance Program, which compensates service members who encounter “debilitating” injuries on active duty.
“Stealing from a program set in place to aid injured and disabled servicemembers diverts compensation from deserving individuals,” FBI San Diego Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy said in a news release. “Willingly defrauding the American people, especially those who protect our country, will not be tolerated.
Toup’s service record previously obtained by Military Times shows that he served as a construction mechanic in the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Expeditionary Support Unit in Coronado, California. He retired in 2017 as a petty officer first class.
Toups is one of at least 11 people charged affiliated with the scheme, including Ronald Olmsted and Anthony Coco, who were assigned to Toups’ unit. They have already received prison time sentences and supervised release.