(Press release originally issued by the U.S. Dept. of Justice, U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Alaska)

United States Attorney’s Office
District of Alaska
222 West 7th Avenue, #9
Anchorage, Alaska 99513-7567

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Deborah Smith
Friday, August 8, 2003   First Assistant U.S. Attorney
    907-271-5071/ Fax: 271-3224



    Anchorage, Alaska – In U.S. District Court Thursday, an Anchorage veteran, who received financial assistance after claiming a disability, pleaded guilty to defrauding the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Vocational Rehabilitation Self-Employment Program of approximately $450,000.

    This is the largest fraud in the nation perpetrated by an individual veteran against the VA, according to Douglas J. Carver, Special Agent in Charge, Criminal Investigations Division of the Office of Inspector General.

    According to the indictment, Ronald Lee Phillips is a veteran who claimed a disability and was found qualified for financial assistance under the VA self-employment program.  Phillips owns a bus transportation company in Anchorage, called Alaska Tour Quest. He submitted a plan to the VA to have two of his buses refurbished by Gear-Ring Bus Line & Transportation in Palmer, Alaska. The VA agreed to provide the financial assistance to repair the used buses. According to the indictment, Phillips then submitted fraudulent invoices totaling more than $450,000 for repairs that were never done, and, instead, used a substantial portion of the money to buy additional buses.

    Phillips' pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud and wire fraud.  The wire fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years imprisonment and a $1 million fine; the conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of 5 years and a $250,000 fine. The Court can also impose restitution.

    The case was investigated by the VA Office of Inspector General and United States Postal Service.