BOSTON – A Greenwood man and past speaker at the town’s Veterans’ Day observances pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing $174,000 in benefits paid to him based upon falsified Vietnam War service records.
Albert L. Seely, 67, of 1251 Main St., pleaded guilty before Senior U.S. District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Seely reportedly admitted to theft of government funds from Oct. 1, 1999 through July 1, 2014. Sentencing is scheduled for March 18, 2015.
Seely, a former U.S. Marine, was deployed to Vietnam and served there from 1966 to 1967. In December 1970, Seely filed his discharge papers with the Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) and reportedly misrepresented the dates and places of his deployment in Vietnam. He also allegedly falsely listed numerous decorations, including two Purple Hearts, a Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star.
In March 1999, Seely reportedly applied for and received VBA disability payments based upon his false claims of combat and valor. He ultimately fraudulently obtained $174,656 in government benefits, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. In February 2014, the VBA terminated his benefits after his fraud was revealed.
On Veterans’ Day 1989, Seeley, as guest speaker at the town’s annual observance, called on the federal government and the Veterans Administration to “realize that Agent Orange is real” and do something about it.
He pointed out that day that “there are veterans in this country dying and having deformed children and a list of maladies you would not believe due to the dioxins we used. Yet it still is not recognized as a disability eligible for benefits from the VA.” This, Seely noted, is in spite of the fact the government finally admitted around the time of his speech that post traumatic stress disorder “is a real physical and emotional problem.”
He said that day, “War is hell, no matter how or where you fight it. It is not a normal thing to kill another human being. ‘Normal’ day to day activities in a war by no means are normal. An average human being cannot help but be affected by those things. I hope it won’t take (a dozen years or more) for the government to realize that Agent Orange is real too.”
In 1988, the West Side Social Club named Seely the Grand Marshal of its Fourth of July Parade.
The charging statute provides that Seely be sentenced to no more than 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000 and restitution. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz, and Jeffrey G. Hughes, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, Northeast Field Office, made the announcement this week. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth G. Shine of Ortiz’ Major Crime Unit.