A benefits service representative with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Providence, Rhode Island has been indicted on three counts of bribery and one count each of extortion, gratuity received by a public official and witness tampering.
Michael Darrah, 45, of Taunton, Massachusetts, solicited and accepted bribes from veterans and the family member of a veteran to approve requested dependent care benefits and/or disability benefits, United States Attorney Zachary A. Cunha said in a release.
The indictment, unsealed on Nov. 9, also alleges that Darrah claimed that some of the money he sought from his victims would be used to purchase gift cards for other purported VA employees who Darrah claimed either could or did assist him in expediting and approving benefits claims.
Darrah requested payments and accepted approximately $3,385 from a veteran, supposedly to “grease the wheels” to push paperwork through and expedite a claim for disability benefits; that he corruptly sought and accepted $16,566 from a second veteran to expedite and approve a claim for disability benefits; and that he sought and accepted $2,700 from a relative of a third veteran to expedite and approve the veteran’s benefits claim, according to the release.
The indictment further alleges that Darrah sought and accepted a “gratuity” of approximately $5,000 from the third veteran for having successfully used his position at the VA to get other VA employees to expedite and approve the claims. The indictment alleges that Darrah requested this “gratuity” despite being advised that the veteran was facing homelessness as his house was being foreclosed.
After Darrah became aware of the government’s investigation into his conduct, he attempted to corruptly persuade a witness not to cooperate with the investigation and to lie about the nature of payments made to Darrah, the indictment further states.
A charge of bribery carries a sentence of up to 15 years in federal prison; extortion is punishable by a sentence of up to 20 years imprisonment; witness tampering is punishable by a sentence of up to 25 years imprisonment; and the charge of receipt of a gratuity by a public official carries a sentence of up to 2 years in prison.
Reach Julia LeDoux at Julia@connectingvets.com.