Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Veterans on opposite sides of law in tax fraud case

Army officer Ryan Timoney volunteered for Afghanistan and then earned a Purple Heart when a suicide bomber attacked his unit in May 2012. He lost part of a leg, his body was riddled with metal, and a piece of his skull had to be removed.

David F. Lewis served in the military, too. He spent 15 years in the Air Force, his attorney says. But that didn't stop Lewis, 50, from feeding a crack cocaine habit by trading identities of military service personnel — including Timoney — to a tax refund fraudster in exchange for drugs, federal authorities learned.

Lewis, a former administrative assistant at James A. Haley Veterans Hospital, is scheduled to be sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tampa on charges of aggravated identity theft and access device fraud, punishable by up to 12 years in prison.

Timoney, 28, who grew up in the Jacksonville area, is expected to attend the sentencing hearing. If so, he will have the chance to tell U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington how having his identity stolen has affected his life.

Such victim tales provide a window into the collateral damage of an illegal enterprise that has cost the Treasury billions while inconveniencing taxpayers by delaying legitimate returns.

Some, like Timoney, already have much on their plates.

On his personal website, he tells of waking up 12 days after the bomb blast but not truly regaining consciousness for two months. He was injured on May 20, 2012. He describes his injuries and, in a lighter moment, reports that learning to play the piano has helped him heal.

"Old brains can learn new tricks," he wrote.

According to the St. Augustine Record, he arrived at the Haley VA Hospital in June and celebrated his Purple Heart there with a cake in August 2012.

Meanwhile, the military past of defendant Lewis has already been brought up, in a motion filed last week by his attorney, Gino Lombardi of Sarasota. While in the Air Force, Lewis was deployed to Saudi Arabia and served in Operation Desert Shield, Lombardi wrote.

Tbt* was unable to reach an Air Force official Wednesday to confirm the military service independently, but the attorney said he has seen the discharge papers.

In a November plea deal Lewis estimated that he printed 10 to 15 patient identity records to trade for crack on each of 20 occasions. The government puts losses attributable to Lewis at $105,271, and obtained a judgment against him for that amount.

Research: John Martin

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