San Diego

Decorated Aviator Veteran Embezzles $124K in Funds Destined for Naval Servicemen

The defendant used funds intended for naval servicemen to maintain his extravagant lifestyle

A naval aviator admitted in federal court Tuesday to embezzling $124,000 in charity funds intended for the families of naval servicemen, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Decorated Naval Veteran Anthony Ventura, 71, used his position as a treasurer of the Distinguished Flying Cross Society (DFCS) to steal the funds, said U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson. He had a distinguished military career, flying numerous combat missions in Vietnam.

DFCS is a national society that awards aviators and aircrew for heroism or extraordinary achievement in their aerial flights, said Robinson.

From July 2012 through January 2016, Ventura worked as a treasurer for the organization. He had control over all their finances. After a few years, he lost a significant amount of his personal money due to a series of unfortunate business decisions, said Robinson.

After filing for personal bankruptcy in 2014, he opened up a bank account that he concealed from the DFCS. He then transferred $124,000 of their assets into his account.

He used these funds to maintain an extravagant lifestyle. That included about $30,000 to run his personal horse stable, $67,000 to purchase stocks and bonds and $25,600 in cash withdrawals for personal living expenses.

In order to conceal and disguise the theft, he made fake quarterly financial summaries for the DFCS Board of Directors, said Robinson.

Ventura also filed a false Charitable Organization Tax Form that claimed the DFCS had $148,049 in funds, when it really only had $15,810 because he stole most of the money.

The defendant was previously awarded the Vietnam Service Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Bronze Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross, said Robinson. After his military career, he worked as a Senior Vice President of Wachova Securities.

Ventura faces charges of wire fraud and filing a false tax return. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for the wire fraud charge and three years for the false return. Each charge carries a separate fine up to $250,000.

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