Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Connecticut Army National Guard Soldier And Rikers Correction Officer Charged With Defrauding The United States Department Of Veterans Affairs And The New York City Department Of Correction

 Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Michael J. Missal, the Inspector General of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of the Inspector General (“VA-OIG”), announced that SHAWN PIERRE HOBBS, a soldier for the Connecticut Army National Guard (“Army National Guard”) and a Rikers Island correction officer employed by the New York City Department of Correction (“NYC DOC”), was arrested yesterday in El Paso, Texas, on wire fraud and aggravated identity theft charges.  HOBBS is alleged to have defrauded the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) and NYC DOC in order to receive financial and other benefits to which he was not entitled.  HOBBS is expected to be presented in federal court in El Paso this afternoon. 

U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “Shawn Pierre Hobbs, a National Guard soldier and correction officer at Rikers Island, allegedly submitted false certifications to receive veterans benefits for hundreds of hours of work he did not perform. Moreover, Hobbs allegedly forged the signatures of his colleagues to make the fraudulent paperwork appear to be authentic. Hobbs’s alleged conduct certainly does not befit that of a sworn officer of two government agencies, and thanks to the assistance of Veterans Affairs, he is now charged criminally for fraud and identity theft.”

VA-OIG Inspector General Michael J. Missal said:  “The charges unsealed today are the result of the hard work and dedication of the VA Office of Inspector General’s special agents working with our law enforcement partners.  The VA OIG will seek to hold accountable those who perpetrate fraud and steal benefits that are intended for deserving veterans.”

According to the Complaint[1] unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:

From at least in or about April 2015, up to and including at least on or about April 8, 2021, SHAWN PIERRE HOBBS served as a soldier in the Army National Guard.  Army National Guard soldiers hold civilian jobs or attend school while maintaining their military training part-time.  The VA provides certain benefits to United States veterans, including Army National Guard soldiers, who work in approved on-the-job training programs (“VA Benefits”).  From at least in or about January 2019, up to and including at least on or about April 8, 2021, HOBBS was employed by NYC DOC as a correction officer at Rikers Island, a VA-approved on-the-job training program.  NYC DOC employees who are members of the military are entitled to paid leave, with certain limitations, while they are engaged in the performance of ordered military duty.

From at least in or about January 2019, up to and including at least in or about March 2021, HOBBS defrauded the VA and NYC DOC in order to obtain VA Benefits and paid military leave from NYC DOC, among other things.  Specifically, HOBBS submitted eight fraudulent military memoranda purportedly from the Army National Guard to NYC DOC in order to obtain paid leave.  The fraudulent military memoranda each bore the seal of the United States Department of Defense and the letterhead of the Army National Guard, and falsely represented that HOBBS had served military duty on hundreds of days on which he, in fact, had not served.  At the same time, HOBBS transmitted by fax 16 fraudulent employment certifications to the VA that were purportedly from NYC DOC and falsely represented that he had worked for NYC DOC for hundreds of hours, which he had not worked.  To effectuate this scheme, HOBBS used the names, identities, and signatures of an Army National Guard Platoon Leader, an Army National Guard Readiness Noncommissioned Officer, and a NYC DOC employee without their knowledge or authorization on the fraudulent military memoranda and employment certifications.

SHAWN PIERRE HOBBS, 34, is charged with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory consecutive term of two years in prison.  The statutory maximum and mandatory penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by a judge.

Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding investigative work of VA-OIG.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane Kim is in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations.  The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint, and the description of the Complaint as set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described therein should be treated as an allegation.  The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. 

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