Man pleads guilty to defrauding disabled veteran, Dept. of Veterans Affairs and Social Security Administration

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HARRISBURG — A Thompsontown man pleaded guilty Wednesday to defrauding a disabled veteran, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Social Security Administration out of more than $300,000 over an almost 10-year period, according to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Jason Ehrhart, 48, also agreed to make full restitution to the veteran’s estate — he died at the VA Hospital in Lebanon in July 2018. Ehrhart’s now ex-wife Laurie is currently scheduled for trial on January 8, 2019 for her alleged involvement in the fraud.

In October 2006, Ehrhart became the veteran’s VA Fiduciary and Legal Custodian due to the man being deemed incompetent to handle his own financial affairs, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The fraud began during the same time frame and lasted until August 2016. In total, Ehrhart spent $316,360 of the man’s VA and Social Security benefits on himself and his then-wife.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said all of the veteran’s VA benefits, and most of his Social Security disability checks, were deposited into a checking account 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.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, more than $200,000 was drawn against the account — almost $157,742 of which was deposited into the Ehrhart’s joint checking account. Ehrhart also converted nearly $23,5000 to cash and another $7,174 in checks were made payable to the Ehrhart’s children, in which they were instructed to cash the checks and surrender it to him.

Ehrhart also used the money to treat another couple and their children to dinners out, the purchase of two new vehicles, payments toward the wife’s dental work and at least two, all-expense paid vacations to Disney World, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

To conceal the embezzlement, Ehrhart submitted eight false annual accountings to the VA, claiming he spent $402,408 on the veteran’s behalf between October 2006 and October 2015.

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