| Crime |

Feds Say Miami VA Employees Took Thousands in Cash Bribes From Vendors

The scheme involved VA employees buying supplies from shady vendors and then receiving kickbacks for the orders.
The scheme involved VA employees buying supplies from shady vendors and then receiving kickbacks for the orders.
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Part of Waymon Woods' job at the Veterans Affairs center in Miami was to order medical supplies for veterans, manage inventory, and ensure vendors weren't price-gouging the VA.

Instead, 58-year-old Woods and five other current and former employees of the Bruce W. Carter Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center accepted cash bribes from medical supply vendors in exchange for making fraudulent purchase orders that, at times, were exorbitantly priced or went unfulfilled, according to court documents.

Woods and the other employees were indicted on several counts of bribery, according to an announcement yesterday from federal prosecutors. The scheme involved VA employees buying a variety of supplies from shady vendors, who sometimes jacked up the prices, and then receiving kickbacks for the orders, court documents say.

"Public officials are not for sale," Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, said during a press conference about the scheme yesterday afternoon, according to the Associated Press. "Public benefits and public programs cannot be purchased with kickbacks and bribes."

The records don't clarify how exactly the money changed hands, but the employees received cash from the suppliers ranging from $2,100 to more than $10,000. Of the six Miami VA employees, Woods received the most in kickbacks for orders placed to three companies — Sunshine Supply USA, Delray Medical Supply/Distributors, and JAF Supply — between February and April 2019. The documents don't indicate which supplies the employees ordered from the companies.

Woods and the others — Don Anderson, age 59, a utility systems operator; Jose Eugenio Cuervo, age 53, an electrician; Donnie Shatek Hawes, age 35, a supervisory supply technician; and Eugene Campbell, age 60, a former supply technician — face up to 15 years in prison for each count. A federal indictment alleges Campbell embezzled $13,200 in VA funds in addition to taking kickbacks. Court records for a sixth indicted employee, Robert Lee James Harris, could not be found. All of the employees had government credit card privileges, documents say.

Federal prosecutors also charged four current and former employees of the West Palm Beach VA in the scheme. According to an indictment, inventory management specialists Clinton Purvis, age 52; Kenneth Scott, age 59; and Robert Johnson, age 62, would place orders that were "fictitious or inflated as to quantity and cost" with vendors, the alleged co-conspirators.

The vendors charged the West Palm Beach VA for the orders, and the men would authorize the payments, court records say. A materials handler, Christopher Young, age 44, would mark the orders as received in the VA's computer system, even when the order went partially or entirely unfulfilled. The vendors received the inflated payments from the VA and kicked back a portion of the money to Purvis, Johnson, and Scott, the indictment says. The men would then share their earnings with Young. The men placed orders for ear wash systems, catheters, a stencil set, tissue dilator kits, and supplies for balloon angioplasties and received thousands of dollars in kickbacks, court records show.

Purvis, Johnson, and Scott were charged with various counts of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, healthcare fraud, and bribery. They face ten years in prison for each count on the conspiracy and healthcare fraud charges and up to 15 years on the bribery charges. Young was charged with conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and falsifying records, for which he faces up to ten years and 20 years in prison per count.

Court documents name ten supply companies that benefited from the falsified orders. The companies were operated by four people — Jorge Flores, age 45; Earron Starks, age 49; Carlicha Starks, age 40; and Robert Kozak, age 73 — all of whom were charged with conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. 

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