A 52-year-old Bremerton woman is among at least a dozen people identified in an 18-month federal investigation into fraudulent collections of Veterans Affairs benefits.
Jackie Ann Courtney plead guilty to one count of stealing government funds for collecting $75,258 of her deceased mother's veterans benefits. She was sentenced in May to five years probation, 120 hours of community service and 90 days home confinement.
Because a larger investigation into benefits fraud known as "Operation Final Payment" was ongoing, federal authorities didn't publicly announce the sentencing until this week.
Four people have been indicted on charges of claiming the benefits of dead friends and family members. Two other defendants have plead guilty and, like Courtney, are responsible for paying back the money they stole.
"Given the limited federal dollars that need to go veterans and their beneficiaries, we don't like to see people enriching themselves fraudulently," said Emily Langlie, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office. "Those benefits need to be safeguarded."
At the time of her death, Courtney's mother had been receiving payments from the VA as the surviving spouse of a veteran. Courtney collected those benefits for five years after her mother's death in April of 2005.
Courtney forged signatures on two questionnaires sent to her mother's address in 2006 and 2009. The questionnaires had to be completed or the monthly payments of $1,440 would cease.
When federal agents approached her in July 2009, she admitted to collecting and spending $68,058 in benefits. Included in that sum was a $250 economic stimulus check addressed to Courtney's mother. The VA mistakenly made another $7,200 in payments to Courtney through November of last year, according to court documents.
The plea agreement doesn't take into account the money she received after meeting with agents because prosecutors didn't know about it until March.
Courtney suffers from physical and mental challenges, which prosecutors say they took into account when suggesting a court sentence.