July 25, 2009 in City

Sebero sentence delayed by judge

VA benefits fraud could net 20-year prison term
Thomas Clouse tomc@spokesman.com, (509) 459-5495
 

A former Bonner County sheriff’s deputy’s sentencing was postponed Friday in federal court in Spokane when the judge requested more information on the man’s health.

James M. Sebero, 59, previously pleaded guilty to defrauding the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs of more than $1.5 million in benefits by claiming to be a paraplegic, according to indictments filed last year in Idaho and Eastern Washington federal courts.

The scheme fell apart after federal agents, investigating Sebero for fraudulently performing annual airplane inspections, learned he’d been receiving VA benefits since 1976, a year after he ended a six-year stint in the Air Force at Fairchild Air Force Base.

Sebero – who later worked as a marine deputy, operated heavy equipment, became a pilot and owned several businesses – has pleaded guilty to the inspection case, lying to the government and 55 counts of wire fraud, which was part of the scheme that netted him about $6,300 a month in disability payments.

He faces up to 20 years in prison. U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush said Friday he needed more information about Sebero’s physical condition before deciding how long a sentence to impose and to which federal facility Sebero will be sent.

No date was set for the sentencing, which includes assurances that Sebero will reimburse the government $950,000 and forfeit his residences in Sandpoint and Spokane. He has already sold four cars, including a Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz, a 40-foot boat and a helicopter, according to court testimony.

Sebero – who walked with the aid of arm-brace crutches – had no comment after the hearing.

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