Woman Appointed by VA to Help Disabled Veteran Emptied Bank Account Instead, Feds Say

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VIA FLICKR/THE U.S. ARMY
A St. Louis woman appointed to oversee the financial affairs of at least six disabled veterans is now being accused of using her position to drain one veteran's bank account of $37,000.

According to federal prosecutors, Tamara Jones, 34, had been appointed a fiduciary in August 2014 for a disabled veteran living in St. Louis County.

Overseen by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a fiduciary is responsible for managing the finances of disabled veterans who cannot do so themselves. The fiduciary also handles payments for daily needs like food, clothing, housing and medical expenses.

There are separate application processes for a veteran's family member or friend applying to the fiduciary program, as opposed to a professional fiduciary seeking to manage the money as a third party. The indictment returned by a federal grand jury Wednesday doesn't explain how Jones came to be appointed for this particular veteran (who is identified in the indictment only by initials), but prosecutors say she wasted no time in abusing the veteran's trust.

After Jones was appointed fiduciary, prosecutors say she spent the next several months withdrawing cash from the veteran's bank account — a move specifically prohibited under the conditions of the fiduciary program. Most of the money she allegedly stole came from the $38,000 in back pay awarded to the disabled veteran by the government.

When confronted by auditors and investigators about about the missing funds, Jones had no answers. According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of Missouri, "Jones could not explain the situation and repeatedly failed to provide records, reports or [the veteran's] funds despite repeated promises to do so."

Jones now faces two criminal charges: theft of government funds, which carries a maximum punishment of ten years in prison, and misappropriation of funds by a fiduciary, which carries a maximum prison sentence of five years. 

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com


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