A federal grand jury in San Antonio today indicted five men on charges of operating a fraud scheme that preyed on U.S. military members and veterans, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
The five, three American citizens, one South Korean citizen and one Australian citizen, are charged with conducting an identity-theft and fraud scheme based in the Philippines, which would steal personal identifying information from thousands of military members to access Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs benefits sites and steal 'millions of dollars.
"to our knowledge this is the largest criminal case ever involving identity theft of military affiliated personnel," U.S. Attorney John Bash said.
"The most egregious aspects of this case is that the targets were disabled and elderly veterans," Bash said.
He said those are the veterans with the most benefits, and have the most to steal.
Bash said despite the fact that the operation was run out of the Philippines, the U.S. has jurisdiction and will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.
“Our message is pretty simple,” Bash said. “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.”
Department of Defense Deputy Inspector General Glenn Fine says, as veterans, many veterans of the War on Terror, stealing the personal information of these men and women could also threaten their lives.
“This indictment and the coordinated actions of our criminal investigative component, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, demonstrate our commitment to swift action against those who attempt to enrich themselves through identify theft, money laundering, and conspiracy. The DoD OIG, working in partnership with the Department of Justice, will continue to identify, disrupt, and bring to justice those who threaten military members, retirees, and veterans through fraud and corruption.”
The five suspects are charged with multiple counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
Three of the suspects were arrested by officials in the Philippines, one was arrested in Las Vegas, and the other in San Diego.