Former Maryland VA official pleads guilty to extortion in benefits scandal

BALTIMORE - A former high-ranking official in the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs pleaded guilty Monday to extortion in connection with a scheme to fraudulently obtain more than $1.4 million in veterans’ benefits.

David Clark, 67, of Hydes, faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced Nov. 17. He has agreed to forfeit the money.

In January 2011, Clark retired from the department as the deputy chief for veterans’ claims.

According to his plea agreement, Clark fraudulently obtained VA compensation for himself and at least 17 others by submitting false documents to the VA purporting to show that the claimants had been diagnosed with diabetes, and in some cases that the claimant had served in Vietnam when they had not. 

The claimants paid Clark half of the retroactive lump sum payment they received. These payments to Clark were made in unmarked envelopes, at VA offices in Bel Air, Baltimore and other locations.

Clark submitted fake letters from doctors supposedly treating the veterans, which falsely stated the claimants suffered from Type II diabetes.  Clark used the names and addresses of real doctors who were unaware of his actions. 

Clark created counterfeit versions of a Department of Defense form for himself and five others, which falsely stated that each had served in Vietnam.  He also submitted false certifications to the state that the filers were entitled to a property tax waiver due to a service-connected disability.

Eight other veterans have previously pleaded guilty to paying Clark cash to submit the false documentation.

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