The Veterans Administration takes good care of America’s honored veterans. Whether it involves open-heart surgery or securing a special deal on a new home loan, among many other benefits, all a veteran has to do is to show up or make a call. So it only stands to reason how anyone with the audacity to defraud a contractor hired by the Department of Veteran Affairs for the benefit of veterans is an unAmerican loathsome slug. Four of them just got caught with their hands in a cookie jar worth a cool $30 million.
The scheme was set up as a conspiracy to target contractors working for the Department of Veterans Affairs. It took form by way of issuing payment and performance bonds which is a required type of insurance for all government contractors involved in major construction projects. such as building V.A. hospitals.
Acting as insurance agents, the guys wrote tens of millions’ worth of policies backed by gold certificates they claimed as the fake companies’ assets. Here’s what the contactors obviously were not aware of. The certificates were fake. The men took the money and ran, which cut deeply into the victimized contractors’ operating budgets. This, in turn, caused projects to slow or even be put on hold as the contractors had to shell additional dollars for legitimate policies.
Three of the men have pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of Conspiracy to Commit Mail and Wire Fraud. Robert Xavier, 57, hailing from Boca Raton, Florida, received 72 months in the big house. His comrade, 51-year-old Timothy “Guy” Castracane from Saratoga Springs, New York, got luckier with only receiving 42 months. Next comes John Hattendorf, 73, from Las Vegas, Nevada who got two years.
But that’s not all. Once released, they each must serve three years of supervised probation, and individually, they each have to somehow scrape up a little over $2.6 million to pay back their victims. The restitution looks good on a court order, but…
The fourth parasite, 64-year-old Robert Michael Wann from Rancho Mirage, California, wouldn’t admit to anything. Mums the word. For his role, the court decided 54 months in a federal penitentiary would do the trick.
But here’s where the plot gets interesting and investigators aren’t spilling the beans on how this was able to happen. Xavier was already in prison when the entire scheme unfolded. He was doing 150-months on a prior fraud conviction. The higher-ups at the federal prison are maintaining radio silence as well. You know. Not wanting to risk their jobs and all.
It gets even better. Xavier’s previous conviction didn’t involve just any old type of fraud. He was sentenced for defrauding 18, and possibly more, federal agencies to the tune of $4.3 million in the exact same way as his latest crime spree. He insured government contractors with worthless pieces of paper.
Wann’s previous crime was a bit different, but nonetheless, fraud. He printed up $8 million in bogus traveler’s checks so he could smuggle them into Vietnam and get them into circulation. The feds were tipped off when Wann used one of his own fake checks at a local supermarket in Riverside County, California where he was living at the time. No one said the man was smart.
Previous to getting busted, Wann had already managed to get other loads of fake traveler’s checks into Mexico where they later showed up as far away as China and Saudi Arabia.
Considering how, in a roundabout way, the four men stole money directly from the pockets of America’s veterans who need it the most, they got off kinda light. They should never see the light of day again.