Two San Diego Veterans Administration employees have been charged in federal court for using government money to buy luxury items for themselves, others and to sell online.
The spending spree started in 2013, according to court documents. Some of the items included large screen televisions, home theater systems, computers and sporting goods.
Nicholas Pilchak, assistant U.S. attorney said, “The indictment alleges over $23,000 in specific property that Mr. Soleimani misappropriated.”
Shawn Soleimani worked as a Social Service Assistant at the VA's Aspire Center. The Aspire Center is run by the San Diego VA Medical Center. It is a shelter with services for homeless veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Soleimani was issued a credit card by the VA, according to the indictment. And he used that card to buy things for himself, friends and colleagues at the VA or sold them online on sites like Amazon.
Former Jag and Defense Attorney Doug Brown discussed the charges in indictments with NBC 7. “It's theft of a government property basically using a government credit card to buy personal items that were on authorized by the government.”
Federal prosecutors also say Solimani helped another VA employee, Trait Beau Tres, buy other items illegally.
The indictment says the pair went to stores like Sports Authority, Macy's, Sears, and REI, racking up bills totaling $3,000 dollars.
Pilchak, who, speaking about the contents of the indictment, said the crimes didn't stop there. “Mr. Soleimani and some of his colleagues also work together on the same day that federal agents executed a search warrant at Mr. Soleimani's home to collect some of the property that hadn't been discovered by federal agents at that time to hide it from authorities.”
The San Diego VA Medical Center responded to NBC 7 about the charges, saying in a statement:
"VASDHS leadership has been cooperating with the Office of Inspector General on this investigation since 2013. Now that the investigation is complete, we are pursuing appropriate personnel actions.
This behavior is not in line with the norms and values of the VA, and as a result, one employee has been fired and steps are being taken for appropriate personnel action for the second employee.
VA has made clear that it will hold employees accountable when they to fail to live up to the high standards taxpayers expect from us, and that’s exactly what we’re doing in this case."
Trait Beau Tres, who is also a veteran, pleaded guilty to charges. His attorney told NBC 7 he received a deferred entry of judgment and if he complies with the terms in two years his charge would be dismissed, adding that Tres is extremely remorseful, he took responsibility early on and is cooperative.
Shawn Soleimani is out of jail on bail and due back in court in August. If convicted, he will have to pay restitution for the money allegedly taken and the amount he made in sales.
The maximum penalty he faces is 10 years in jail.