A disgraced VA official has pleaded guilty to participating an $11 million dollar scam with a parking lot operator. Richard Scott of Westside Services, the parking lot vendor under contract with the VA, failed to pay all the money that was generated. The facility is to be used for the health and wellness of veterans but has been used by unrelated private businesses.
Ralph Tillman at the Veterans Administration Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System in southern California was charged with two felony counts of bribery. He admitted that he knew the operator was defrauding the VA out of millions, and that he had received $286,250 from Scott to keep quiet about the double-cross.
Scott has reportedly been keeping two sets of books to hide the facility’s actual revenue. Agents have seized a luxury property, 3 Ferraris, a Corvette, and a Shelby Mustang. Scott has allegedly been paying himself $3.1 million a year.
The Old Veterans Guard filed complaints for almost a decade, specifically naming Tillman. The area has a large homeless population and the group wants to see an end to the recreational use of the land which could be used for helping veterans who are living on the streets.
The new acting director has testified to the House Veterans Affairs Committee that the VA facility lacked a “bona fide contracting officer.” While in office, Tillman allowed several organizations to use the VA property without paying rent or having a lease.
This issue first came to the attention of the VA in 2014, when Tillman was confronted by federal agents. He quickly retired but continued to take money from Scott. Westside Services was allowed to continue to operate the lots after the arrests and the VA has not explained why the lease is still in effect.
There have been multiple embezzlement cases originating from the facility, one involving over $680,000. Representative Mike Coffman of Colorado, chairman of the investigative panel, asked VA officials if it intended to evict groups that are using the land for things other than healthcare for veterans.
Officials responded by saying they would undergo a review process to create a “master plan.” The current plan was created in 2011. Other use of the land currently includes a bird sanctuary and a now delayed amphitheater project.
Recent revelations about hiring at the Department of Veteran Affairs show that it regularly hired healthcare employees who have been sued and convicted of malpractice. One doctor, John Henry Schneider, maimed more than a dozen victims. A few deaths were a direct result of his illegal hiring.
The operations of the VA are an ongoing problem for the federal government. The Trump administration has taken steps recently to encourage whistleblowers to come forward, offering those who do expedient unbiased investigations and a safe reporting process.
It will be interesting to see what the investigations will ultimately reveal, perhaps more funds have been paid in “hush money.” Once the investigations are complete we should have a better accounting of all the activities that have gone on at the facility.
Tillman is accused of other scams at the VA where he held his position. His cut seems low for the total $11 million that was taken. Some might find it hard to believe that he only received a rather small percentage of the funds that are missing.
The federal government should have some sort of service that monitors and audits revenue from its internal agencies. Accountants should be assigned to facilities such as the VA in West Los Angeles, in order to prevent fraud and to have some accountability to the American taxpayer.
It should not take years of whistleblowers sounding the alarm, and mounting evidence in order for action to be taken in a case such as this. Our military veterans deserve the best access to treatment and care.