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Sirens & Gavels

Wed., Aug. 10, 2011, 5:06 p.m.

Army vet jailed for false mileage claims

A man who made more than $20,000 in false mileage reimbursement by lying to the Spokane Veteran Affairs Medical Center about where he lived is to spend six months in jail.

Michael Edward Harrison, 27, is to be on probation for three years and is required to pay $20,464.92 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs under a sentence imposed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Spokane.

Harrison, an Army veteran, pleaded guilty in May to four counts of making a false claim for travel benefits.

Veteran Affairs reimburses patients at the Spokane Veterans Affairs Medical Center 41.5 cents per mile driven to and from the hospital. Harrison lived on West Francis Avenue in Spokane, less than three miles from the hospital, but filed 202 claims between September 2009 and October 2010 that said he traveled from Omak - a 280-mile round trip, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"The actions of this individual served to divert some of VA's limited financial resources, from deserving veterans, into his own pocket," Michael Seitler, special agent in charge of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and Office of Inspector General's northwest office, said in a prepared statement. "VA OIG is confident that this successful prosecution will assist in deterring others from defrauding the VA in this manner."

Harrison is to report to the U.S. Marshals Service by noon on Aug. 16.

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