Ex-Official Gets 10 Years for Theft of Health Funds for the Poor

PHOENIX — A former state official who acknowledged stealing $5.9 million from Arizona’s health care program for the poor was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison for his part in a years-long fraud scheme.

Michael John Veit, the former chief procurement officer for the state’s Medicaid program, was ordered to pay full restitution as part of his earlier guilty pleas to fraud and theft charges. The 64-year-old also forfeited his state retirement benefits.

Prosecutors say Veit participated in a scheme in which payments submitted in the name of one of the agency’s vendors ended up in the hands of the procurement officer, one of his associates and some of Veit’s family members.

Veit, dressed in a black and white jail uniform, said he takes responsibility for his actions. “I apologize to all those I have caused harm to,” Veit said.

Maricopa County Court Commissioner Erin O’Brien Otis said Veit’s abuse of the public’s trust was the most serious factor when considering his sentence. “That is the one that the court is giving the most weight in this case,” Otis said.

Veit served as the chief procurement officer for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System until he was fired on Aug. 18, when investigators searched his office. His job was to oversee maintenance, facilities and office supply contracts for the agency, where he worked for about 27 years.

During the office search, investigators say they found a briefcase containing years-old checks from the agency to the vendor totaling nearly $1.5 million.

They say checks weren’t being forwarded to the vendor and instead were deposited into a bank account whose signer was listed as Michael J. Cameron, an associate of Veit. Cameron pleaded guilty in late March to fraud and theft charges and is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday.

Investigators say they found evidence that the vendor’s invoices had been tampered with. They said label tape was put over the amount owed and another figure was written on top of the tape.

Authorities who searched the homes of Veit family members say they found $115,000 in cash inside gun safes at a house owned by Veit and one of his adult sons. Another $6,000 in cash was discovered in a jacket pocket at another home owned by Veit.

No other Veit family members have been charged in the case.

Prosecutor Mary McGary urged Otis to view statements about Veit’s generosity with skepticism. “Always remember that the money he gave to others was not his to give,” McGary said.

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