A Purple Heart veteran who pleaded guilty in June to defrauding the Veterans Administration and was sentenced this month, said the charges against him are not true.
Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder sentenced Willie Dosher Cain to five years of probation and ordered him to perform 250 hours of community service, after he pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement in June.
Cain was also ordered to pay more than $903,000 in restitution and to forfeit a modified van and mobility scooter.
“As far as pleading guilty, this I did and you must remember that there are many in the U.S. who have done the same but were innocent,” Cain, 74, said in a statement emailed to The Fayetteville Observer.
Though Cain said he had “great attorneys” on his case and a judge who treated him “with dignity and respect,” he said at his age, he is tired of court and having to pay a “considerable amount of money in attorney fees.”
Cain said that investigators who documented his movements never spoke with him for his “side of the story.”
According to documents filed with the court, Cain told VA officials shrapnel wounds sustained in Vietnam in 1965 caused him to suffer the loss of the use of both legs, and to lose control of his bowel and bladder.
He also told officials he was unable to perform daily activities such as dressing and bathing without assistance, and that he was dependent on a wheelchair or motorized scooter for mobility.
Officials said because Cain remained physically active, does not suffer the loss of both legs and can perform daily functions unaided, he made fraudulent claims.
“I never claimed that I cannot walk but used a chair or cane occasionally because of mobility problems,” he said.
It was a point that he made to The Fayetteville Observer in 2017 when receiving a mobility device from a nonprofit and a point that his lawyer made in legal motions during his case.
Cain said he is a spinal cord injury patient who has mobility problems “at times,” and is a 27-year veteran with three combat tours who received the Purple Heart because he was wounded with shrapnel in his backside during a deployment to Vietnam.
Court records state in February 1965, he was struck in the buttocks during combat in the Vietnam War.
He served in the Army from 1964 to 1991 and was honorably discharged as a command sergeant major.
Legal motions filed by prosecuting attorneys throughout the case and the indictment questioned the extent of Cain’s disability claims with the Veterans Administration.
The indictment said Cain claimed he was “dependent on a wheelchair and wheelchair-bound since 2009, but worked as a firearms instructor “enjoyed beach activities, played basketball, danced and conducted an otherwise active lifestyle.”
Prior to Cain’s plea in June, his lawyer filed a motion seeking to dismiss photo and video evidence of him dancing, going to the beach and playing basketball.
“The mere fact that the videos and photographs illustrate single moments of (Cain’s) physical movement does not fully represent the extent of (his) disability,” his attorney wrote in a May 18 motion.
His lawyer argued that the “brief snapshots” would mislead jurors to believing they depicted Cain’s “physical capability on a daily basis.”
“The videos and photographs have no connection to any alleged scheme in the indictments, and any alleged connection that could be drawn from the videos regarding (Cain’s) disability would be highly speculative in nature,” his attorney wrote.
In a responding motion, prosecuting attorneys sought to include the testimony of Dr. Thurman Whitted, who specializes in back and spinal cord injuries at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Fayetteville.
Court documents state Whitted saw Cain as a patient at the spinal clinic starting in 2012 and that Cain is diagnosed with damage to the nerves at the base of his spinal column.
Court documents said that Whitted would testify that if Cain’s injuries were to the extent of his claim, he would have limited movement abilities and should not be able to “climb stairs, conduct firearms training, serve on a church security team or dance.”
Related to purchasing a condo on the third floor, Cain said he wanted one on the first floor because of knee problems, which he said are associated with more than 100 parachute jumps he made in the military.
In a related civil forfeiture action, he has forfeited a Carolina Beach condominium, officials said.
Cain said he purchased the unit because of its “great price” and hoped to have one on the first floor when it became available and to later give it to his children.
“My VA doctors have been supportive of me, and guess what? I am still being treated for some of the conditions the government is claiming I am supposed to be faking,” he said.
During a hearing in September, Cain’s lawyer, Christopher Clifton, raised questions about Cain’s disability rating.
Though Cain had waived his rights to a legal appeal when pleading in June, he is appealing the Veterans Affairs’ investigation related to his benefit awards, Clifton said.
Clifton said Cain does have bowel and bladder care issues.
During the proceeding, Frank Churt Jr. with the U.S. Attorney’s Office called David George, a decision review officer of the Veterans Benefit Administration, to testify.
Geroge described the levels at which a veteran can file a disability claim.
George said Cain’s claim was granted based on him claiming loss of both legs and bowel and bladder control impairment in 2009, and the disability claim was upgraded in 2011, which allowed additional payments for a caregiver.
Clifton argued Cain is 100% disabled “based on a laundry list of conditions, despite the claim level.
Cain told The Fayetteville Observer he’s battled cancer three times because of Agent Orange, has a heart condition, pancreatic disease, kidney problems and a degenerate back.
During the proceeding, Tod Leaven, a lawyer and law instructor who specializes in veterans benefits, said he thinks Cain can make a claim at the level he originally did in 2009 based on incontinence.
Clifton argued that Cain could still qualify for those benefits, despite not having a complete loss of lower extremity use.
“Nobody in the courtroom would contend that he’s anything less at this point in his life than 100% disabled,” Clifton said. “He can’t work. And he took it two steps too far. He knows that.”
Clifton said Cain has “good days and bad days,” and is still disabled with “significant health issues” that have been documented since his shrapnel injury.
Churt said despite Cain’s military and police careers, Cain “knew better.”
“I’m not dishonoring his service in any way, but there’s people without limbs because of this country’s wars who need these benefits and need this money,” Churt said, questioning if the appeals “are anything but pie in the sky.”
Cain thanked church, law enforcement friends and veterans who he said have prayed for and supported him.
After the Army, he served more than 15 years with the Fayetteville Police Department, while also teaching courses at Fayetteville Technical Community College and Campbell University.
“There is more to the story that I can not reveal right now, but when it is all over I may come out and tell the rest,” he said. “Just remember there’s always another side to a story, and sometimes, there can be many sides.”
For other veterans, Cain said the VA has been “supportive of him” and did “not want to see him go through this ordeal.”
“Be careful when a veteran organization helps you with a claim,” he said in a message to other veterans. “View that claim before it is submitted to the VA. That was another problem for me in my case.”
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