Taking from Our Heroes: Veterans Services Official Admits to Stealing Money Meant for Homebound Vets

December 29, 2011
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A former high-ranking official in the City’s Veterans Service Department admitted on Tuesday to pocketing some $13,000 in City funds that were meant to serve sick, homebound veterans.

Joseph Miller, 57, of Beverly, stood in Suffolk Superior Court on Tuesday morning and admitted to a scheme run in 2009 and 2010 where he got kickbacks and payments through abusing the Department’s home health aid service.

His charges included extortion, false statements by a public employee, solicitation of gifts, amongst others.

Miller’s attorney indicated that his downfall was precipitated by alcoholism and a gambling addiction.

“We have a 57-year-old man with no prior record who has a gambling and alcohol addiction and simply went off the deep end and has taken responsibility for it,” said Attorney Solomon.

For that, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Carol Ball seemed to have sympathy and waved off jail time for Miller, only sentencing him to repaying the stolen money and two-year’s probation. On top of that, he is not to gamble in any fashion.

Prosecutor Benjamin Goldberger had called for one year’s jail time in the House of Corrections, two years of probation and full restitution.

“I have grown more tough on white collar crime over the course of my career,” said Judge Ball. “Given the combination of Mr. Miller’s addictions, I will impose the sentence I said I would. You can’t help but sit in this session and see the ruined lives caused by gambling and the combination of alcohol.”

Miller’s case brought down Boston’s Veterans Services Department last year when the case became public.

It spurred a top-to-bottom audit of the department that eventually revealed very few checks and balances and a very vulnerable system that was ripe for abuse and theft.

In the wake of that, long time Veterans Services Director Eugene Vaillancourt resigned. He left office this past May.

Prosecutor Goldberger laid out the case in open court, saying that Miller was the head clerk at Boston’s Veterans Services Department, and made decisions about who qualified for certain services.

In the fall of 2009, he contacted one woman and proposed that she provide home health care services for her mother. In doing that, he would give the okay for her to be paid by Veterans Services.

Once the woman began receiving checks for the care to her mother, Miller began demanding kickbacks of up to $1,700 per check. He also told the woman if she didn’t provide the kickbacks, he would cut off the checks.

Also, the woman and another home health care worker – in concert with Miller – continued to be paid for services to the mother even after she died. All time sheets for those services and payments to the two women were authorized by Miller.

In exchange, he received kickbacks and even went so far as to drive one of the women to a bank and force her to cash one of the checks and hand the money over to him.

A third woman was also involved in the scam for providing service to someone that didn’t exist – getting paid through authorizations from Miller.

In open court, he admitted to all of the misdeeds and accepted responsibility for them.

He was ordered to pay $12,700 to the City of Boston for restitution, and ordered not to gamble in any form.

“No Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun, or Foxborough gambling casino, or Suffolk Downs for that matter,” said Judge Ball.

As a side note for the record, Miller’s attorney said that his client has a couple of part-time jobs and a small group of people in the community have been making calls to those jobs to demand that Miller be fired.