August 27, 2008 in City

Ex-deputy accused of defrauding VA

Prosecutor says man faked paraplegia
By The Spokesman-Review

A former Bonner County sheriff’s deputy who feigned being a paraplegic collected an estimated $1.5 million in Veterans Administration benefits before being indicted last week in Spokane, U.S. Attorney Jim McDevitt said Tuesday.

James M. Sebero is charged with three counts of making false statements on documents he filled out to begin receiving disability payments after his discharge from the U.S. Air Force in the 1970s.

“We believe it to be one of the largest VA overpayment or alleged fraud cases ever in this region,” McDevitt said. “We believe, and I’m putting this in the softest of terms, that it could be a number that approaches at least $1.5 million.”

Sebero reportedly claimed he became paralyzed from a service-related injury in the 1970s when he apparently began receiving VA disability payments.

In the meantime, he worked for four years as a seasonal marine deputy in Bonner County and also operated an aircraft repair facility at Felts Field in Spokane, authorities said.

He was indicted in June 2007 in Spokane on four separate federal charges accusing him of making false statements pertaining to a Federal Aviation Administration certification needed to perform work on aircraft.

In June, he struck a plea bargain and pleaded guilty to a single count of making a false writing, a federal misdemeanor.

As part of that plea deal, Sebero will have to make $10,744 in restitution to Beaverhawk Inc., which owns an aircraft he performed work on without required FAA certification.

Prosecutors also will recommend that Sebero be placed on five years probation when he is sentenced Sept. 12 by Senior U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quakenbush.

A date has not been set for Sebero’s initial court appearance on the new indictment related to the alleged VA fraud.

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