A certified nursing assistant from Raeford, North Carolina was sentenced Oct. 15 to more than a year imprisonment and ordered to pay more than $90,000 in restitution after committing wire fraud on the account of an elderly veteran in her care.
Tracey McNeill, 51, pled guilty to one count of wire fraud on July 6. The remaining 25 counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud were dismissed at her sentencing hearing as a result of a plea agreement.
According to court documents, McNeill was given access to Veterans Affairs and Office of Personnel Management benefits by fraudulently obtaining a power of attorney over the disabled veteran.
The veteran was only identified by the initials “W.R.” However, it was noted in court documents that the veteran had served in the Army and worked for the U.S. Postal Service for more than 40 years.
From April 2015 to February 2016, McNeill funneled the veteran’s benefits to her personal accounts, according to court documents. This included monthly payments from the VA ranging between $445 to $587 and around $3,065 a month from OPM.
McNeill’s indictment also accused her of arranging for the veteran — who had dementia —to move in with her in February 2015. She then had the VA and OPM deposit W.R.’s benefits into her bank account for the next 20 months.
According to McNeill’s indictment, by the time W.R. passed away Dec. 7, 2016, she had received more than $72,469 in stolen benefits. The veteran was 68 years old at the time of death from complications stemming from dementia.
Court documents also show that after the veteran’s death, McNeill filed beneficiary forms putting herself as the sole beneficiary for what was left of the veteran’s retirement benefits and life insurance.
A financial analysis conducted during the prosecution’s investigation showed McNeill spent the stolen funds on rent, utilities, credit card payments and personal purchases.
OPM sent McNeill $17,533 in life insurance proceeds after subtracting funeral costs.
McNeill ultimately defrauded the VA and OPM of $90,003, according to the Eastern District of North Carolina’s news release.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Ontjes prosecuted the case and U.S. District Judge James C. Dever III oversaw McNeill’s sentencing. Ontjes was not immediately available for comment.
The Offices of Inspector General from both the VA and OPM assisted in the investigation.
Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran, Penn State alumna and Master's candidate at New York University for Business and Economic Reporting.