A former supervisor for the Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center was sentenced Oct. 14 for his role in a theft, bribery and kickback scheme that cost the clinic roughly $200,000 in losses.
According to court documents, William H. Precht, 54, of Kent, Ohio, was sentenced by Judge Donald C. Nugent to 37 months imprisonment and ordered to pay $1,259,390.66 in restitution after pleading guilty to the 28 charges against him.
Precht pleaded guilty in March to one count of theft of government property, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and honest services fraud, three counts of wire fraud and 23 counts of giving false statements relating to health care matters.
“Public corruption by VA employees erodes trust in the Department and diverts taxpayer money intended for our nation’s veterans,” acting Special Agent in Charge Gavin McClaren of the Veterans Affairs’ Office of Inspector General’s Central Field Office said in a press release.
According to court documents, Precht originally started working for the Cleveland VA as a pharmacist, before working as an inventory management specialist and as a supervisory management and program analyst from 2010 to 2018, when the crimes were committed.
He was removed from his role in 2019 and indicted in November 2020.
Through his role with the VA, Precht ordered the medical supplies, purchased capital equipment and monitored requests for equipment purchases needed for the VA’s surgical services, according to court documents.
His position at the VA allowed him to fraudulently register vendors in the VA’s vendor system. For example, the first vendor in his scheme, referred to in court documents as Vendor-1, was registered as a Small Disadvantaged Business and Veteran-Owned Small Business in 2010.
But it was controlled by Precht.
He then also used his VA purchase card to buy approximately $1,066,348 worth of medical supplies from the vendor, according to court documents.
Precht used a similar scheme for Vendors 2 through 5, except for the remaining four vendors he conspired with Robert A. Vitale, a medical sales representative that worked with businesses utilized by the Cleveland VA.
As part of their joint scheme, which was carried out from 2015 to 2018, Precht received kickbacks—illegal commissions paid to an individual for preferential business treatment—and other valuable incentives in exchange for awarding Vitale with business contracts and monetary awards.
Vitale pled guilty to a Bill of Information on October 13, 2021, waiving indictment and agreement to the prosecution in court. The details of his plea agreement have not been released to the public.
In order to conceal his schemes, Precht gave false information to other VA employees regarding the reasons for ordering medical supplies, such as prosthetics and surgical screws, according to court documents. He also edited patient records, falsely recording patients as having medical implants or needing certain procedures or tests.
As a result, the Cleveland VA lost $193,042.66.
The investigation was conducted by the VA’s Office of the Inspector General in Cleveland and the Cleveland Division of the FBI. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian McDonough.
Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran, Penn State alumna and Master’s candidate at New York University for Business and Economic Reporting.