Three Charged In Scheme To Steal Veterans' Benefits In Michigan

WWJ News
June 01, 2020 - 10:41 am
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(WWJ) Three people are facing charges after authorities say they stole $470,000 in public benefits by defrauding the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Michigan Department of Treasury.

Melissa R. Flores, 53, and a co-conspirator allegedly created aliases and obtained or created fraudulent documents, including vital records like birth certificates, to make it appear that they were heirs to various people who had died, according to the Michigan Attorney General's Office. 

Through this scheme, between 2013 and 2019, it’s alleged that Flores and her co-defendant stole $40,000 of Unclaimed Property from the Michigan Department of Treasury and more than $430,000 from the VA.

Meanwhile, authorities say 32-year-old Stephen Decker received proceeds from the scheme and used some of the money to conceal property used to conduct the fraud. 

“Committing fraud against our state or federal agencies that directly give back to their communities will not be tolerated,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said, in a statement.

“Our veterans voluntarily put their lives on the line in service to this country to protect the freedoms and liberties we as U.S. citizens enjoy. For someone to take advantage of the public benefits set aside for their families is a slap in the face to servicemen and women across the country.” 

Flores, a Westland resident, is subject to sentencing as a habitual offender, fourth notice, officials said.

She was arraigned May 27 in 18th District Court on the following charges: 

  • one count of conducting a criminal enterprise, a felony punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment, $100,000 fine and forfeiture of proceeds and items used during the crime;  
  • two counts of false pretenses between $20,000 and $50,000, a felony punishable by 15 years’ imprisonment, $15,000 fine or three times the value of the money or property involved;
  • forgery of documents affecting real property, a 14-year felony;,and
  • four counts of false pretenses between $1,000 and $20,000, a felony punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and a $10,000 fine or three times the value of the money or property involved.

Decker, of Wyandotte, is charged with one count of criminal enterprises – racketeering proceeds, a felony punishable by up to 20 years’ in prison, $100,000 fine and forfeiture of proceeds and items used during the crime. He was arraigned May 29 in 27th District Court where bond was set at 10,000 cash/surety or 10%. 

The third person allegedly involved has been charged with conducting a criminal enterprise and multiple counts of false pretenses. That person's name is being with held at this time pending an arraignment.

Both Flores and Decker will be back in court for a probable cause conference this Thursday.