More great VA moments: Convicted fraudster goes from prison to running purchasing program
posted at 8:41 am on May 6, 2016 by Ed Morrissey
This may seem like déjà vu, but then again, many issues at the Veterans Administration feel like recurring nightmares anyway. The VA hired Braxton Linton almost immediately after his release from prison, where he served fourteen months for defrauding his employer of $70,000 through credit-card fraud. The VA eventually put him in charge of … a purchasing office, according to the Daily Caller’s Luke Rosiak.
I’m sure that will end well:
Almost immediately after Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate #11109-017 completed a 14-month sentence for using sensitive credit card data on his previous employer’s computer system to steal $70,000, he was hired by the Department of Veterans Affairs in a position that ultimately led to his present job — running an office racked with credit card fraud and bribery problems.
Braxton Linton is prosthetics service chief at the Caribbean Veterans Affairs hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Service chiefs are the top officials in each department in VA hospitals. VA prosthetics offices procure all assistive devices and use government credit cards so often that they are called “prosthetics purchase cards.”
Did I mention déjà vu? Readers may recall another brilliant HR decision at the very same VA facility, also first reported by the Daily Caller. It’s beginning to look like a pattern of incompetence, or worse:
A Department of Veterans Affairs employee in Puerto Rico was fired after being arrested for armed robbery, but her union quickly got her reinstated — despite a guilty plea — by pointing out that management’s labor relations negotiator is a registered sex offender, and the hospital’s director was once arrested and found with painkiller drugs…
Employees said the union demanded her job back and pointed out that Tito Santiago Martinez, the management-side labor relations specialist in Puerto Rico, who is in charge of dealing with the union and employee discipline, is a convicted sex offender. Martinez reportedly disclosed his conviction to the hospital and VA hired him anyway, reasoning that “there’s no children in [the hospital], so they figure I could not harm anyone here.”
The union’s position — that another employee committed a crime and got away with it, so this one should, too — has been upheld by the highest civil service rules arbiters, and has created a vicious Catch-22 where the department’s prior indefensible inaction against bad employees has handcuffed it from taking action now against other scofflaws.
So much for that catch-22, huh? The VA may have gotten stuck with Elizabeth Rivera Rivera and Tito Santiago Martinez. Why hire Linton at all after he served a fourteen-month stretch for fraud — and why put him in a position of oversight over budgets and personal data?
Police said Linton used his position to prey on the students he victimized. “Not only would the person have to have access to personal information, they would have to have access to intercept the plastic,” an officer said in a front-page news article about the crime.
When credit-card offers came in the mail, he would apply for them using personal info, like Social Security numbers, taken from the college’s private database of students. When statements came showing the huge purchases, he would steal those pieces of mail, so the students never knew. …
Now, at the VA, Linton has access to the personal and medical information of thousands of veterans, as well as to federal credit cards. He also oversees a large budget and a staff.
Amazingly, Linton was brought in from a Florida VA office to run a purchasing office that was already under investigation for fraud and bribery. Given the amount of time from his crime, Linton might be the cleanest employee at the San Juan VA.
Should people get second chances after serving their time? Sure, but should our veterans be the subjects of experimentation in rehabilitation? Were there no other candidates who could fill these jobs, or have we employed every able-bodied American already?