Portsmouth woman pleads guilty to fraud schemes targeting veterans
A Portsmouth woman pleaded guilty this week to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a scheme to defraud veterans.
“This defendant has been brought to justice for orchestrating numerous fraudulent schemes against veterans who honorably served their country,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “For those who steal, misappropriate, and divert funds that belong to our country’s veterans, this case sends a strong message that you will be prosecuted and held accountable for your inexcusable conduct.”
According to court documents, Rita Copeland, 59, operated an entity known as “Veteran Services of the Commonwealth.” Copeland purported to provide caregiving, contracting, and rental assistance services to various veterans from 2016 through 2020. Copeland caused a number of victims to apply for Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) grants through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Such grant payments are to be used for certain designated improvements to the residences of veterans. Copeland failed to perform all of the promised work and used a portion of these payments to her own benefit, contrary to the designated purposes of the funds.
Copeland also diverted the income and retirement fund payments of another veteran to a bank account that she had opened. In addition, Copeland fraudulently obtained and diverted loan funds and used the credit and debit cards of this elderly victim. Finally, Copeland engaged in a rental fraud scheme, purporting to link veterans and others with landlords, but then diverting rental and security deposit payments to her own benefit.
Copeland pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft, and she is scheduled to be sentenced on August 27. She faces a maximum penalty of 20 years for wire fraud and a mandatory consecutive term of two years for aggravated identity theft.