Portsmouth woman pleads guilty in fraud scheme targeting veterans

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A Portsmouth woman has pleaded guilty to a fraud scheme that targeted veterans.

Rita Copeland, 59, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in federal court Monday, according to the United States Department of Justice.

Copeland is scheduled for sentencing Aug. 27. She faces up to 20 years for wire fraud and a mandatory consecutive term of two years for aggravated identity theft. Actual sentences are typically less than the maximum penalties.

The DOJ said Copeland ran Veteran Services of the Commonwealth from 2016 to 2020, which she purported to give caregiving, contracting, and rental assistance services to various veterans.

Copeland influenced a number of veterans to apply for Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) grants through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Those grants are supposed to be used for certain designated improvements in veterans’ homes, however, Copeland failed to do “all of the promised work,” according to the DOJ.

Authorities also said Copeland used some of the grant payments for her own benefit.

Officials said Copeland also sent some income and retirement fund payments of another veteran to a bank account that she had opened, and also fraudulently obtained and diverted loan funds and used the credit and debit cards of that elderly victim.

Lastly, Copeland participated in a rental fraud scheme in which she said she linked veterans and others with landlords, but then diverted rental and security deposit money for her own benefit.

“This defendant has been brought to justice for orchestrating numerous fraudulent schemes against veterans who honorably served their country,” said Raj Parekh, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “For those who steal, misappropriate, and divert funds that belong to our country’s veterans, this case sends a strong message that you will be prosecuted and held accountable for your inexcusable conduct.”

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