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Federal Jury Convicts Tampa Woman of Stealing Department of Veterans Affairs Benefits Intended to Assist Disabled Vets to Return to Employment

September 26, 2023

From the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Florida

Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that a federal jury has found Melanie Marshall (38, Tampa), a/k/a Melanie Gutermuth, guilty of theft of government funds. Marshall faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison. Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for December 14, 2023. Marshall had been indicted on December 19, 2018.

According to evidence presented at trial, Marshall stole from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VRE) program. Marshall was eligible for the VRE program, which was designed to assist veterans with service-connected disabilities prepare for, find, and keep suitable employment, but lied to her VA Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) to continue receiving benefits beyond what had been approved. Marshall signed an Individualized Written Rehabilitation Plan with the stated objective being to complete a Bachelor of Science Degree in Public Health/Health Education. Marshall graduated with her Bachelor of Science in approximately December 2015. However, Marshall failed to report to her VRC that she had completed the program she was approved for – by graduating with her bachelor’s degree – and lied on multiple occasions regarding her progress toward completion of her bachelor’s degree. Marshall also provided fake degree audits to support her repeated lies to the VRC regarding her progress towards her bachelor’s degree. As a result of Marshall’s lies and misrepresentations, the VA paid for classes and issued monthly subsistence allowance payments after she had already completed her approved VRE program. The total loss to the VA was $20,986.92.

“The Veteran Readiness and Employment program provides vital job training, education, and employment accommodations for our nation’s deserving veterans with service-connected disabilities. The VA Office of Inspector General is committed to holding accountable those who would commit fraud against VA’s programs and services,” said Special Agent in Charge David Spilker with the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General’s Southeast Field Office. “The VA OIG thanks the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Social Security Administration OIG for their efforts in this joint investigation.”

This case was investigated by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of the Inspector General and the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General. It is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Suzanne Huyler and Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer L. Peresie.

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