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Man, ex-wife accused of spending veteran’s VA, Social Security benefits on themselves

HARRISBURG — A Thompsontown man and his ex-wife face charges for allegedly defrauding a disabled veteran, the Veterans Administration (VA) and the Social Security Administration out of more than $300,000 over an almost 10-year period.

Jason Ehrhart, 48, is charged with one count of health care fraud while Laurie Ehrhart, also 48, faces a charge of health care fraud and conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

The alleged fraud began in October 2006, when Jason Ehrhart became the veteran’s VA Fiduciary and Legal Custodian due to the man being deemed incompetent to handle his own financial affairs. The veteran was hospitalized on a permanent basis at the VA hospital in Lebanon in November 2004. The man died at the hospital in July 2018.

Between October 2006 and August 2016, Jason Ehrhart and Laurie Ehrhart — who at the time was Jason’s wife — spent $316,360 of the man’s VA and Social Security benefits on themselves, U.S. Attorney David Freed alleges.

All of the veteran’s VA benefits, and most of his Social Security disability checks, were deposited into a checking account Jason Ehrhart opened as a legal custodian account in the veteran’s name. Between January 2009 and August 2016, $472,260 in federal benefits were deposited into the account, said U.S. Attorney Freed.

It’s alleged that $218,832 was drawn against the account and of that amount, $157,742 was deposited into the Ehrhart’s joint checking account — at least $23,496 was converted to cash, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Another $7,174 in checks were allegedly made payable to the Ehrhart’s children in which Jason Ehrhart instructed them to cash the checks and surrender it to him.

Jason Ehrhart and Laurie Ehrhart are also accused of writing $19,890 in checks to another couple. He allegedly treated the couple and their children to dinners out and at least two, all-expense paid vacations to Disney World as well as the purchase of two new vehicles for the family and payments toward the wife’s dental work, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

To conceal the embezzlement, Jason Ehrhart allegedly submitted eight false annual accountings to the VA, claiming he spent $402,408 on the veteran’s behalf between October 2006 and October 2015. He also falsely claimed to have spent thousands of dollars on expenditures for the man, including storage unit rentals, vehicle maintenance bills, state and local taxes, life and auto insurance, and credit card bills, the U.S. Attorney Freed alleges.