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Tenn. woman charged with stealing from VA grants

KRISTIN M. HALL, Associated Press • Jan 17, 2013 at 9:35 AM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Federal prosecutors charged a woman in Nashville with taking money from Veterans Affairs grants that she said was to be used for housing for homeless veterans, and they are seeking reimbursement of over $300,000.

Birdie Anderson operated Next Stage Inc., a nonprofit that claimed to provide training, outreach and housing for homeless veterans. Anderson received grants from the VA to provide housing and other support for homeless veterans, but prosecutors claim she made false statements and kept some of the money intended for veterans.

She was charged Monday with making false statements and theft of more than $1,000 in public money. A federal public defender appointed to her case did not immediately return a call for comment and a phone number for Anderson that was on file with tax documents for the charity was no longer in service.

Investigators searched her Nashville home in February 2012, according to a search warrant obtained and posted online by WTVF-TV in Nashville. The U.S. District Court clerk's office would not release a copy of the search warrant to The Associated Press on Thursday and messages left with the docket clerk supervisor were not immediately returned.

Michael Keen, a special agent with the Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General, said in an affidavit attached to the search warrant that Anderson received three different grants from the VA between 2007 and 2009, all purported to be used to assist veterans.

The first grant was for $80,600 in 2007 for the purchase of a home in Nashville that she said would be used for housing for homeless veterans for a period of at least seven years. According to the charges against her, she claimed the house was worth $124,000 and that she could provide the additional money needed to purchase the home, which is a specific condition for obtaining the grant.

But prosecutors said she instead got a mortgage loan by falsely representing her income and assets. The charges said she kept about $25,600 of the grant after purchasing the home.

According to the affidavit, Anderson got another $25,000 grant in 2007 to purchase a specialty van for transporting homeless veterans. But the agency said a search of vehicle transaction records didn't show that she ever purchased that vehicle in her name or the charity's.

In 2008, Anderson applied for another VA — this one for $258,000 — for her to purchase an apartment building in Nashville that she said would be used for housing homeless veterans. She supported her proposal by claiming that the city of Nashville would provide her with additional funds for this project. She received the money in 2009, but no apartment building was purchased, the affidavit said.

The affidavit said a review of her bank account and the charity's bank accounts said checks were written and debit cards were used at various gambling casinos in Mississippi and Indiana.

During the search, investigators seized several documents and files relating to Anderson and her charity, as well as several casino player cards and lottery tickets.

The false statements charge carries a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison if convicted and the theft charge carries a maximum of 10 years in prison.

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