BOSTON (WBSM) — A New Bedford man has been charged with stealing over $450,000 in disability benefits issued by the United States Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).

The disability funds were intended for a 20-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

Joseph Smith, 71, was charged with one count of theft of government benefits and one count of conspiracy to steal government benefits.

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According to the charging documents, shortly after the victim’s ALS diagnosis in August 2015, the VBA approved and awarded the victim approximately $8,318 in monthly payments.

The VBA began mailing checks for monthly payments in September 2015 to the victim’s former residence in New Bedford, where he had previously lived with Smith and others.

It is alleged that while the victim was hospitalized between 2015 and 2020, Smith and others received the monthly VBA disability checks and proceeded to deposit them into bank accounts they controlled.

Smith allegedly first deposited the disability checks into a bank account in his name and then began to deposit them into a bank account that he and others fraudulently opened in the victim’s name.

Shortly after depositing the disability checks, Smith allegedly withdrew the funds in cash and used the money for personal expenses.

In total, between 2015 and 2020, Smith and others allegedly stole more than $450,000 in VBA disability benefits intended for the victim.

“80 years ago this week, incredibly brave members of our military stormed the beaches of Normandy to save Europe. Every citizen owes a debt of gratitude to the veterans who have served our country," Acting U.S. Attorney Joshua S. Levy said. "It is beyond the pale to steal disability payments that were intended for a 20-year military veteran facing a life-threatening disease, as is alleged here. The immorality exposed by the criminal justice system is, at times, simply stunning."

Smith is currently in custody on unrelated charges and will appear in federal court in Boston on June 11.

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