VAOIG Seal U.S. Department Of Veterans Affairs
Office of Inspector General
Office of Investigations
Washington, DC 20420
(202) 565-7702
Thursday, April 08, 1999
Marine and Four Family Members Charged in Fictitious Death Scheme
Richard J. Griffin, Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), announced today that on April 7, 1999, Arthur Bennett, a U.S. Marine, and four of his family members, were indicted by a Federal grand jury in Las Vegas, NV, on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Bennett, his ex-wife Amelia Bennett of Utah, his mother, Ellen Bennett, and two brothers, Scott and David Bennett of Las Vegas, were all charged based on false claims submitted to the Government to obtain benefits from VA; Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI); and Social Security Administration (SSA).

Griffin stated the indictments were the result of a joint investigation conducted by his Western Field Office; Defense Criminal Investigative Service; Naval Criminal Investigative Service; SSA; and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The indictments charged that the Bennetts conspired in a fictitious death scheme involving a trailer fire at Lake Mead National Recreation Area near Las Vegas in 1994. They claimed that Arthur Bennett died in the fire. Subsequently, they submitted false claims in excess of $300,000 to the Government for benefit payments associated with this death.

At the time of the fire in 1994, Bennett was facing a court-martial in connection with the sexual assault of a fellow Marine's daughter. Authorities claim he faked his own death to avoid prosecution and killed someone else as part of his scheme. Las Vegas police initially believed the burned body belonged to Bennett, and the findings of a military dentist confirmed that finding.

Bennett is currently incarcerated at Clark County, NV, and is awaiting trial on charges of murder, sexual assault, kidnapping, and arson. He also faces a court-martial by the Marine Corps for a host of charges ranging from desertion to sexual misconduct. No date has been set for those proceedings. The remaining four family members were all arrested today.

Assistant United States Attorney Rimantas A. Rukstele, Las Vegas, is prosecuting this case.