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Man who fraudulently obtained VA benefits by falsely claiming to be a wounded Marine sentenced to prison

Department of Justice. (Scott "Skippy"/Flickr)
October 14, 2020

This article was originally published by the Department of Justice.

An Orange County man who falsely held himself out to be a United States Marine Corps combat veteran and two-time Purple Heart recipient to fraudulently obtain veterans’ health care and housing benefits was sentenced today to 16 months in federal prison.

James Stiles, 43, of Orange, was sentenced by United States District Judge John A. Kronstadt, who also ordered him to pay $167,234 in restitution. Stiles pleaded guilty on June 18 to one count of health care fraud.

In November 2012, Stiles applied for health care benefits through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by submitting and signing a fraudulent application. On the form, Stiles falsely claimed that he had served in the Marine Corps from 1995 to 2005, and that he was awarded the Purple Heart after being wounded in combat.

Once he was enrolled in the VA’s health care benefit program, Stiles scheduled medical appointments at will. From December 2012 to March 2016, Stiles received 692 outpatient treatments, primarily at the Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center in Long Beach.

Stiles admitted in his plea agreement that in December 2015 he also applied for housing benefits intended for homeless veterans, and he submitted forms where he falsely claims to be the recipient of two Purple Hearts. As a result of this application, Stiles was accepted into the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supporting Housing program. The Orange County Housing Authority, HUD’s local housing partner in Orange County automatically provided his landlord with vouchers on Stiles’s behalf each month beginning in February 2016.

Also, in February 2016, Stiles submitted a form to the VA for the purpose of obtaining disability benefits in which he falsely claimed that he was a veteran.

Stiles’s scheme to defraud ended in April 2016 when the VA confronted him, and he admitted he had never served in the U.S. military and was not entitled to receive VA benefits.

The total loss in this case was $167,234, with a loss of $162,900 to the Veterans Health Administration and a $4,334 loss to the Orange County Housing Authority.

In a sentencing memorandum, prosecutors cited a March 2016 audio recording where Stiles falsely told a religious outreach group for veterans “that he was a captain in the Marine Corps, that he served for 10 years, that he was simultaneously shot in the head by a 5-year-old ‘kid’ and in the back by a sniper, that he was subsequently in a coma for approximately two years, and that he still lives with the bullet in his head.”

“His comments have no basis in the truth,” prosecutors wrote. “[Stiles’s] statements are deeply offensive to those that have actually served in the United States military.”

This matter was investigated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General and the Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Eli A. Alcaraz of the Riverside Branch Office.