Dripping Springs Woman Sentenced for Defrauding VA, SSA of more than $500K
From the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Texas:
SAN ANTONIO – A Dripping Springs woman was sentenced in a federal court in San Antonio today to 46 months in prison and ordered to pay $501,709.54 in restitution for defrauding the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) of more than $500,000.
According to court documents, Josephine Casandra Perez-Gorda, 40, defrauded the VA and SSA by overstating the severity and extent of her spouse’s disability from October 2011 through August 2017. Mr. Perez-Gorda, now deceased, was an Army veteran who participated in the fraud. The couple claimed Mr. Perez-Gorda was paralyzed from the waist down from an injury he suffered while on active duty. The ruse included applying for and receiving a specially equipped vehicle, a specially adapted home and additional compensation based on his disability rating.
The investigation began after San Antonio news station, KENS5, aired a story titled, “Homes for Our Troops Questions Veteran’s Paralysis after Video.” The story involved a specially adapted house in Dripping Springs that was gifted to the Perez-Gordas in December 2013 by the non-profit foundation Homes for Our Troops. Although Mrs. Perez-Gorda claimed her husband was “paralyzed from the belly button down,” Mr. Perez-Gorda was seen walking around the neighborhood and playing basketball. VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) agents videotaped Mr. Perez-Gorda walking around without assistance. Mrs. Perez-Gorda furthered the scheme by completing all the VA and SSA paperwork claiming Mr. Perez-Gorda was paralyzed in both legs.
On Sept. 27, 2022, Mrs. Perez-Gorda was found guilty of 11 counts of wire fraud; one count of mail fraud; one count of health care fraud; three counts of false statements related to a health care matter; one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud; and one count of theft of government funds. In addition to the imprisonment and restitution, Perez-Gorda is responsible for a $100 special assessment on each of the 18 counts and $100,000 for trial expenses.
“As the U.S. Attorney’s Office, we will pursue individuals that defraud and steal from integral benefit programs like those designed by the Veteran’s Administration and the Social Security Administration,” said U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza of the Western District of Texas. “These programs are crucial to our disabled veterans and other disabled Americans who truly depend on their assistance, and they must be protected.”
“Fraudulently obtaining benefits from VA diverts valuable resources intended for the care of deserving veterans,” said Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Investigations Carl Scott of the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General’s Office of Investigations. “The VA OIG is grateful to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Social Security Administration OIG for their efforts in this joint investigation.”
“A jury found Josephine Perez-Gorda guilty as a co-conspirator in a scheme that defrauded the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Veterans Administration of more than $500,000 and services intended to assist persons with disabilities. This sentence now holds her accountable for her criminal actions,” said Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General for the SSA. “I appreciate the VA Office of the Inspector General for their work in this joint investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecuting this case.”
The VA-OIG and SSA-OIG investigated the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Surovic and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany Miller prosecuted the case.