A Charleston man who falsely claimed to be a combat veteran and scammed the Department of Veterans Affairs out of nearly $200,000 in benefits has been sentenced.
Keith R. Hudson, 71, will serve six months in federal prison and six months of home confinement, Sherri Lydon, U.S. attorney for South Carolina, announced Wednesday.
"Evidence presented to the court showed that Hudson falsely claimed that he was entitled to VA benefits because he was a veteran who had been in combat in Vietnam," according to Lydon's announcement. "He even went so far as to claim that he had received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star."
In all, he received $197,237 in benefits, the announcement said.
Lydon called Hudson's deception "an egregious crime" and said that he "trampled on the memory of those who have bravely served our country."
"(He) not only stole from the taxpayers by taking benefits he did not earn, he also stole directly from veterans who served our nation and protected our freedom," according to the statement. "Every minute of time he spent with a VA doctor or a staff member is a minute he stole from a real veteran."
It was not Hudson's first scheme.
In 2005, he falsely claimed to be a veteran to claim benefits while in Connecticut, Lydon said. He was prosecuted and placed in a pretrial diversion.
He later moved to Charleston, where he applied for VA benefits in 2012.
"He used the same falsified form from the Department of Defense ... and claimed that he was in the Navy and saw combat as a medic, suffering wounds and other trauma," the announcement stated. "He claimed that he served from Aug. 1, 1967 through Oct. 31, 1971."
But prosecutors said Hudson never served in any branch of the military, much less saw combat in Vietnam.
In Charleston, he asked U.S. District Judge Richard M. Gergel for probation instead of a prison sentence, citing his age and poor health, according to the announcement. Gergel denied the request and also ordered Hudson to pay $297,237 in restitution.
Hudson pleaded guilty in Gergel's courtroom in June and had faced up to a 10-year sentence.