Friday, December 18, 2009

Ex-N.J. veterans' official pleads guilty in tax case

Posted on Tue, Dec. 1, 2009

Ex-N.J. veterans' official pleads guilty in tax case
By Barbara Boyer

Inquirer Staff Writer

Vietnam veteran William Devereaux says he has never gotten over seeing
his best friend killed during a rocket attack on the 82d Airborne
"I only found the top of his head and his boots with the feet in
them," Devereaux, 64, wrote in a statement he released yesterday
morning. "I was never the same AGAIN!"

Minutes earlier, in Superior Court in Camden, Devereaux appeared more
humble as he pleaded guilty to theft related to tax payments.

Devereaux, a former official with the New Jersey Department of
Military and Veterans Affairs, apologized for what he called
"delusional" and "paranoid" decisions, and for embellishing his
military disabilities so he could avoid paying local property taxes.

Assistant Camden County Prosecutor Leslie Dicker said Devereaux
applied for benefits related to war injuries only after he began his
job of helping other veterans apply for benefits in 2002.

Devereaux pleaded guilty to theft under an agreement with prosecutors,
who will recommend a 30-day jail sentence that he can serve under
house arrest. If the deal is accepted by Judge Irvin J. Snyder, who
set sentencing for Jan. 29, Devereaux also will serve five years'

He has surrendered his job, can never work for the state again, and
has paid $54,142 in taxes he owed to Laurel Springs for 2002 through
2008, when he improperly claimed the military exemption, said his
attorney, Dennis Wixted.

Additionally, Devereaux may not work with veterans in any capacity for
at least five years. Had he gone to trial and been convicted, he could
have faced up to five years in prison.

"I'm very, very sorry for what has happened," Devereaux told the judge
at yesterday's hearing, after arriving in a black jacket emblazoned
with the 82d Airborne emblem in red stitching. He asked for
"compassion and forgiveness."

His troubles, however, are not over. Camden County Prosecutor Warren
Faulk said federal authorities were continuing the investigation.

Devereaux was arrested a year ago, when he worked as the director of
veterans programs for the state.

Devereaux first worked for the Camden County Office of Veterans
Affairs, in 2001. In 2004, Gov. Jim McGreevey appointed him director
of veterans' programs. In that position, Devereaux helped soldiers
suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

It was at that time, prosecutors said, that Devereaux learned how to
work the system, applying for the tax exemptions and claiming he was
100 percent disabled from the war.

Devereaux, in attending numerous military functions, wore a decorated
uniform that included high military honors, including a Purple Heart,
a Soldier's Medal, and a Bronze Star. He also received $34,000 in
military benefits federal authorities are reviewing, officials said.

He claimed he was injured as a paratrooper and artilleryman in Vietnam
and later used incorrect military records to qualify for property-tax
exemptions in Laurel Springs.

"It's outrageous that someone who worked for the Veterans
Administration would be engaged in this type of behavior," said Faulk.

Devereaux never received any of the medals he claimed, officials said.
Devereaux agreed, calling his behavior "despicable," but said he never
faked being in combat or his war-related disabilities when he served
with the 82d Airborne.

"Our unit arrived in Vietnam on Feb. 13, 1968, at Chu Clai," Devereaux
wrote in his statement. "Within three hours of landing, we took
incoming 122mm rockets and were attacked by Viet Cong from the
southeast and were pressed into fire fights. I had been
administratively trained and was completely unready to face this type
of action, however I did then and for the next five months."

During this time, he wrote, his best friend was killed 50 feet from
the spot where Devereaux took cover during the rocket attack.

Authorities said it was possible Devereaux had seen combat; according
to military records, he joined the Army in May 1967 and was honorably
discharged in May 1970. The records show he was assigned as a payroll-
distribution specialist to Vietnam for four months in 1968.
Devereaux's lies make it difficult to believe any of his story,
officials said.

Initially, Devereaux said, he never told anyone about war-related
problems. He said he started treatment for post-traumatic stress
disorder in 1989 and was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000, which
he said was related to Agent Orange.

Although the military never gave him a 100 percent permanent
disability, which entitles him to additional benefits, Devereaux said
he had applied for one and still was waiting for a determination.

He knew, he said, it was wrong to apply for the tax exemptions and
claim medals he never received.

"I hated how the VA was treating me and the thousands of other Vietnam
vets in like situations," Devereaux wrote, adding, "I apologize
profusely for my irrational and despicable behavior in this case.
However, I can assure you that it was not done with a clear heart or

The saddest part of this is the man had "honorable service" in the Army during war, he distorted that to make himself into a "hero" without that he would have been the same as the hundreds of thousands of other war veterans, his stressor of seeing his friend killed should have been a legitimate sressor for a PTSD claim, his falsely claimed medals, his claim for property tax exemptions that he is not entititled to, this is what makes him a dispicable veteran and hurts the image of honrable veterans with PTSD......I hope he is ashamed of his behavior but his wearing of the 82nd Jacket indicates he isn't, why else shame the 82nd while in court for sentencing? His claim that the VA wasn't treating him properly is bull otherwise how does he explain the compensation checks he is receiving? Has the VA failed VietnamWar veterans, yes, just like they have other war veterans, veterans of classified experimental programs involving nuclear materials, chemical weapons and drugs from WW2 - 1975, biological experiments at Fort Detrick, SHAD/112, Dugway Proving Grounds, Utah, Fort Greeley, Alaska, toxic substances at every military base in the nation, after closure all of them have ended up on the EPA Superfund clean up sites, yet when veterans file claims related to the exposures the government claims that nothing was dangerous enough to harm the veterans at these bases. It baffles the mind that toxic substances can require superfund clean up yet the contaminated water wells are declared "safe" by the VA and DOD.

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