A Nashville, Tenn., woman who stole more than $364,000 earmarked to help homeless veterans will spend two years in jail for the crimes.
Birdie Anderson, 56, who portrayed herself as a homeless advocate, bilked the Veterans Affairs Department through the Tennessee charity Next Stage, according to prosecutors. She pleaded guilty to the theft earlier this month, and was sentenced Tuesday.
Justice Department officials called the crime especially offensive, given that the money was meant to help vulnerable veterans.
“There is no group as worthy of government assistance as those who have served their country in the military, and have since fallen on hard times,” U.S. Attorney for Tennessee David Rivera said in a statement. “This defendant’s greed and deception deprived that group of assistance they needed, and as a result they will not receive the benefit of the money she stole and squandered.”
Officials said Anderson received a series of VA grants from 2007 to 2009 meant to establish a home for destitute veterans.
Some of the money did go toward a shelter, but Anderson routinely pocketed portions of the grant allotments for her own use. Over time, she defaulted on payments for the property, and the shelter was repossessed.
Prosecutors said she also forged letters from the Nashville Commission on Homelessness supporting her projects and lied about other purchases to obtain more grants. When confronted about the theft, Anderson falsely claimed she was undergoing cancer treatment and could not answer questions.
Investigators found hundreds of gambling receipts for Anderson over the time the thefts occurred, indicating that local casinos and horse tracks ended up with most of the homeless assistance funds. So far, none of the missing money has been recovered.