Man accused of defrauding Veterans Administration

Posted: Tuesday, April 29, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) A Fairbanks man is on trial on 45 federal charges of defrauding the Veterans Administration out of $63,000.

Donald Hymes, 68, is accused of claiming his deceased mother was still alive, then collecting checks made out to her. His trial began Monday in U.S. District Court in Fairbanks.

Federal prosecutor Steve Cooper said Hymes began his scheme in 1990, when his mother died in California.

In his opening statement, Cooper said the Veterans Administration was sending Hymes' mother monthly checks because she was the widow of a veteran. Hymes never mentioned her death to either the probate court in California or the Veterans Administration, Cooper said.

Initially, Hymes continued to have the checks, ranging from $833 to $850 a month, directly deposited into his mother's bank account and had access to the account as the administrator of her estate, the prosecutor said. Cooper said Hymes eventually had the checks sent to his Fairbanks address.

Hymes was able to cash the checks by using another account that he set up in both his mother's and his name, Cooper said.

After several unsuccessful attempts to contact Hymes' mother following suspicions about her status, a Veterans Administration agent traveled to Alaska in 1999 and met Hymes at his Fairbanks residence. At that time Hymes admitted that he had collected the money and spent it, Cooper said.

Hymes is representing himself with the assistance of his wife and a lawyer only recently appointed to the case. He used his opening statement to attack the government's prosecution of him.

Hymes, visibly shaking with nervousness, said he never had any intention to defraud the government as charged in his indictment and that a person trying to conduct an illegal scheme such as laundering money would have taken a more secretive approach, the Fairbanks Daily News-Minter reported.

Why in the world would I have stayed with the same bank the same name if I did something illegal?'' he said.

Hymes said the government violated his constitutional rights and never simply approached him about the situation, choosing instead to engage in an orgy of indictment manipulation.''

In all, he is charged with 12 counts of mail fraud, 12 counts of receiving mail under a false name, 12 counts of converting money of the United States, 16 counts of money laundering and one count of contempt of court for allegedly refusing to provide a handwriting sample to the grand jury that indicted him.

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