JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Jacksonville man has pleaded guilty to stealing his twin’s identity to obtain veterans benefits, according to a press release from the United States Attorney’s Office.
Wayne Bowen, 64, has pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft.
He faces a mandatory penalty of two years in federal prison and as part of his plea agreement, the press release says Bowen has agreed to reimburse various federal agencies a total of $63,773 for the government benefits he received in connection with his identity theft scheme.
According to the plea agreement, in 2014, Bowen used the name, Social Security card, and military discharge papers of his estranged twin brother to apply for federally subsidized housing benefits.
Documents show, when interviewed by federal agents, Bowen admitted that he had been using his twin brother’s identity for years.
Rich Possert of the Veterans Council of Duval County calls what Bowen did, 'vial,' “These are people that have put their lives on the line, risk dying to protect our freedoms and for folks to be attacking them or focusing on them to do scamming is pretty sad and really it hurts the VA’s ability to provide care and give benefits to those who’ve earned it.”
He said he obtained a Florida identification card using his twin’s identity and had been arrested and convicted of felony offenses under his twin’s name, according to the United States Attorney’s Office.
Although Bowen initially told the agents that he, like his twin, had served in and been honorably discharged from the U.S. Army, officials say Bowen later relented and admitted those were lies.
Bowen’s twin has confirmed to the United States Attorney’s Office that he did not apply for any of these benefits and that he never gave Bowen permission to use his name.
“The defendant pleaded guilty today for his abhorrent conduct in defrauding multiple federal and state benefit programs by assuming the identify of his twin brother who had justly earned these benefits,” said Special Agent in Charge David Spilker of the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General’s Southeast Field Office. “The VA OIG will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure the integrity of VA’s benefit programs.”
Possert offers this information to report abuse, fraud and waste:
All suspected criminal activity should be reported to the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG):
• Email the VA OIG Hotline: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Call the VA OIG: (800) 488-8244
• Fax the VA OIG: (202) 565-7936
Veterans who suspect they’ve been the target of fraud can call the Office of Integrity and Compliance Help Line 24/7 at (866) 842-4357 (VHA-HELP) or email email@example.com for assistance and guidance.