An active-duty Navy physician and a former medical officer were indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury in what prosecutors allege is a conspiracy to collect millions in fraudulent insurance benefits.
Cmdr. Michael Villarroel and former Lt. Cmdr. Paul Craig are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, three counts of wire fraud and three counts of making a false claim “to obtain unearned benefits from the Traumatic Servicemembers Life Insurance Program,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California announced Thursday.
Former Master Chief Construction Mechanic Christopher Toups – who last year was indicted and charged, along with four other Navy personnel, in the alleged fraud ring to get TSGLI benefits totaling nearly $2 million – is also named in the latest indictment.
Villarroel, 47, of Coronado, Calif., was the medical officer for San Diego-based Explosive Ordnance Disposal Expeditionary Support Group 1, from March 2010 to May 2013, when he “knowingly signed off on false and fraudulent TSGLI applications on behalf of multiple servicemembers that were part of or connected to EOD ESU One,” officials said in a news release.
Toups was assigned to EOD ESU-1 from September 2010 to September 2014, according to court records.
Craig, 46, of Austin, Texas, and Toups “filed fraudulent TSGLI applications,” officials said. “To support their applications, each defendant submitted fabricated applications that included forged signatures and altered hospital records. Craig fraudulently collected $150,000 and Toups collected at least $100,000.”
Toups, 42, of Woodstock, Ga., was one of five Navy servicemembers indicted in March 2018, each on conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and making a false claim that netted them allegedly fraudulent TSGLI benefits, according to district court records.
Three of them – EOD Chief Richard Cote, former Lt. Ernest Thompson and former Navy nurse Kelene Meyer (AKAs Kelene McGrath and Jacqueline Toups) – have pleaded guilty and are pending sentencing, court records show. Meyer, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy earlier this year and is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 31, 2020, is Christopher Toups’ ex-wife, according to the March 29, 2018 indictment. Cote and Thompson are scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 24, 2020, according to court records.
The fourth servicemember is Toups’ brother, former EOD sailor Jason Toups.
While the latest indictment hasn’t been released – it wasn’t available via online court records as of Friday afternoon – the 2018 indictment details some of the alleged fraud involving TSGLI applications.
McGrath, Thompson, Cote, Christopher Toups and Jason Toups “inducted the United States Department of Defense to pay money – through the TSGLI program – based on false and fraudulent claims that the defendants suffered severe and catastrophic injuries while serving in the United States Navy,” the grand jury wrote in the 2018 indictment. “To substantiate their claims, defendants attached materially false, fraudulent, and altered medical records to their TSGLI applications.”
Those claims, according to government indictments and filings:
- McGrath, in a June 2012 TSGLI application, “falsely” claimed “she suffered catastrophic injuries on April 2, 2002, when she purportedly injured her shoulder falling off a horse,” according to the indictment. “To substantiate her fraudulent claim, McGrath attached fraudulent medical records that contained numerous forgeries, including the signatures of medical professionals.”
- Christopher Toups, in a February 2012 TSGLI application, “falsely” claimed that “he suffered catastrophic injury on February 18, 2005, when he purportedly fell during a training exercise,” it stated. “C. Toups attached fraudulent medical records that contained numerous forgeries, including the signatures of medical professionals.”
- The other three allegedly took actual records of real mishaps and claimed as their own when they submitted their packages for TSGLI benefits, according to the indictment.
- Jason Toups claimed, in an April 2013 TSGLI application, that “he suffered catastrophic injuries on April 6, 2004, when he purportedly suffered a skull fracture, broke his wrist, pelvis, , ribs and suffered a concussion as the result of a motorcycle accident in Jacksonville, Florida,” the grand jury wrote. “J. Toups altered the genuine medical records of D.S. To make it appear that (he) Toups suffered the claimed injuries.”
- Thompson, in a March 2013 TSGLI application, claimed “he suffered catastrophic injuries during May 2002, when he purportedly broke his left leg, left foot, right knee and right forearm in a motorcycle accident,” they wrote. “Thompson altered the genuine medical records of C.C., an individual who suffered a motorcycle accident on December 26, 2011, to make it appear that Thompson suffered the injuries claimed in his TSGLI application.
- Cote, in his July 2015 TSGLI application, claimed “he suffered catastrophic injuries on January 3, 2002, when he purportedly fell from a ladder while taking down Christmas lights,” they wrote. He “altered the genuine medical records of D.B., a United States Navy service member who suffered severe and catastrophic injuries on October 4, 2004, when he fell from a helicopter during training, to make it appear Cote suffered the injuries claimed in his TSGLI application.”
Christopher and Jason Toups are scheduled to appear in federal court for a motion hearing on Nov. 22 ahead of their scheduled trial, currently set to begin Dec. 2, according to on online court records.