VAOIG Seal U.S. Department Of Veterans Affairs
Office of Inspector General
Central Field Office
P.O. Box 1454
Hines, IL 60141
(708) 202-2676
Tuesday, July 30, 2002
Former Hines VA Hospital Official Sentenced in $177,000 Theft Case
Special Agent-in-Charge John W. Brooks, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General, Central Field Office of Investigations, announced today that on July 30, 2002 Paul J. Romito of Westmont, IL, a former business manager of the Hines VA Hospital's Surgical Service, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois by Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow. Romito was ordered to serve 10 months of incarceration followed by two years of supervised release and to pay $177,649 in restitution to the U.S. Government. On May 24, 2002 an associate of Romito, Trajano Luis Ocana of Melrose Park, IL, was sentenced to serve 12 months of incarceration followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $170,149 in restitution to the Government. Romito and Ocana had each previously pled guilty to theft of U.S. Government funds in violation of Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 641.

Brooks said that as a Hines VA Hospital employee, Romito oversaw all administrative matters within the Surgical Service and procured all items for the service with a VA-issued Citibank credit card. Without authorization Romito used that credit card to purchase numerous laptop computers and peripheral equipment at various Chicagoland retailers such as Circuit City, Best Buy, and CompUSA. Romito then sold the items to Trajano Luis Ocana and pocketed the money he received. In turn, Ocana sold the computers and peripherals he received from Romito to various Chicagoland pawnshops. Romito fraudulently purchased $177,649 worth of computers and peripheral equipment using the VA-issued credit card and Ocana bought $170,149 worth of the items from Romito for re-sale.

Assistant United States Attorney T. Markus Funk of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago, IL prosecuted this case.