SAN ANTONIO (KWTX) Five people named in a 14-count indictment unsealed Wednesday in San Antonio are accused of stealing millions of dollars from mainly disabled and elderly veterans in an identity-theft and fraud scheme
The five, who were based in both the U.S. and the Philippines, allegedly used stolen identifying information from thousands of military members to access benefits websites and steal millions of dollars, prosecutors said.
“The crimes charged today are reprehensible and will not be tolerated by the Department of Justice. These defendants are alleged to have illegally defrauded some of America’s most honorable citizens, our elderly and disabled veterans and service members,” Attorney General William P. Barr said.
The alleged ringleader, Robert Wayne Boling, Jr.; Fredrick Brown; Trorice Crawford; Allan Albert Kerr, an Australian citizen; and Jongmin Seok, a South Korean citizen, are each charged with multiple counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, and aggravated identify theft stemming from the alleged scheme.
Boling, Kerr and Seok were arrested in the Philippines.
Brown, who was arrested in Las Vegas, was ordered held pending trial.
Crawford, who was arrested in San Diego, is awaiting a detention hearing.
“Our message is pretty simple,” said U.S. Attorney John Bash.
“It doesn’t matter where on this planet you reside. If you target our veterans, we’re coming for you. Our veterans were willing to risk everything to protect this Nation from foreign threats. Now it’s our turn to seek justice for them.”
The alleged scheme started in 2014 when Brown, who held a civilian job at a U.S. Army installation, stole identifying information including names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and Department of Defense ID numbers, from thousands of military members, according to the indictment.
Brown, the indictment alleges, then provided the information to Boling, who, working with Kerr and Seok, used the stolen information to compromise a DoD portal through which service members obtain access to benefits online.
Once they accomplished that, they were able to steal or attempt to steal millions of dollars from the bank accounts of service members as well as benefits payments, the indictment says.
Boling is accused of working with Crawford to recruit people to accept the deposits of stolen funds into their own accounts, and then wire the funds to the five defendants and others, the indictment says.
The scheme was first detected earlier this year, triggering the investigation that led to the indictment.
“VA is working with DoD to identify any instances of compromised VA benefits accounts,” said James Hutton, VA assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs.
“Just as importantly, VA has taken steps to protect veterans’ data and are instituting additional protective measures.”