Temple VA

A preliminary report finds abuse of power and criminal actions at the Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Medical Center in Temple.

One of three Bell County residents was sentenced Tuesday to her role in a scheme to defraud the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Melissa Sebek, 55, of Temple, who pleaded guilty in federal court to theft of government property, was sentenced to five years federal probation and $50,189 restitution, according to the U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas. Sebek is owner and operator of MS Bookkeeping Services.

Sebek’s attorney, Chris K. Gober of San Antonio, said she is also required to do 240 hours of community service and has other probationary terms.

She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor offense in Judge Jeffrey C. Manske’s courtroom and, on Oct. 16, waived her right to a trial by jury.

She joined her husband, Christopher Sebek, 55, and Jeffrey Pearson, 55, of Killeen, in their conspiracy to divert government property and money so it could be used for personal gain. The trio was charged for defrauding the Temple VA of about $250,000.

Christopher Sebek pleaded guilty Oct. 23 to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government and one count of theft of government property, as did Pearson. Both will be sentenced March 13 in Manske’s court.

The scheme

The trio was discovered through a VA investigation that found a scheme at the motor pool to secretly profit from VA purchase orders.

Christopher Sebek used his position as operations supervisor for the Department of Engineering for Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Temple to reroute government property and money to he could use it for his own gain, including paying his personal bills, loans, college tuition and personal credit card bills, the federal complaint said.

Business was funneled to a Killeen firm, Whitetail Industrial Parts and Service, that made at least $400,000 by padding purchases with 30 percent surcharges. More than $1.3 million was funneled through Whitetail.

Court records showed the scheme began in February 2012. Christopher Sebek and Pearson agreed to steal money from the Temple VA and, over a five-year period, they sent fraudulent invoices for payment — for goods and services designated for the VA medical center. Christopher Sebek sent bogus invoices to the VA from his wife’s company.

However, the invoices were used to pay for personal items and to cover Pearson’s 30 percent commission on each invoice.

Records show Christopher Sebek stole two VAMC credit cards and used them to pay for his personal expenses.

Central Texas VA Health Care System Director Christopher Sandles previously said an employee came forward and reported concerns that led to the uncovering of the criminal activity.

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