A former contract officer with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has agreed to plead guilty to filing a false federal tax return and lying to VA investigators when he denied taking bribes from the operator of parking lots at the VA’s Los Angeles medical campus near Westwood, according to documents filed Friday in federal court.
Charged With Making False Statements
Ralph Tillman, 58, of Whittier, who resigned in 2014 after being confronted by special agents with the VA’s Office of Inspector General, was named in a criminal information filed in Los Angeles federal court that charges him with making false statements and filing a false tax return.
Took $286,250 In Bribes
In a plea agreement also filed Friday, Tillman agreed to plead guilty to those two felony offenses and admitted that he took well over $250,000 in bribes from the parking lot operator, Richard Scott, the owner of Westside Services LLC — WSS — which for years had a contract to operate parking lots across the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
West LA VA Parking Lot Scheme
Scott, 58, faces charges — including conspiracy and major fraud against the United States — contained in a 15-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury last month. Scott allegedly paid bribes to Tillman to conceal a scheme in which he allegedly failed to pay the VA more than $11 million generated by his operation of parking facilities at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center campus.
Delivering Bribes In FedEx Envelopes
As part of his duties at the VA, Tillman was responsible for managing contracts with “sharing partners,” such as Westside Services, which were required to perform services for the VA and share revenues with the agency. In his plea agreement, Tillman admitted that he approached Scott in late 2003 and solicited a bribe to pay for a family matter. One to two years later, Scott began making monthly cash payments to Tillman, with Scott personally delivering the bribes in sealed FedEx envelopes, according to the plea agreement.
Knew Scott Was Defrauding The VA
In return for the cash bribes, Tillman admitted that he failed to scrutinize annual statements from WSS that he knew contained inaccurately reported revenues and expenses, according to the plea document. Tillman also admitted that he knew Scott was defrauding the VA out of millions of dollars, and that he entered into a contract extension with WSS in 2011 to continue the fraud and bribery scheme, prosecutors said.
Tillman Lied To Investigators
During an interview with special agents with the VA’s Office of Inspector General in September 2014, Tillman denied accepting money or anything of value from Scott, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Tillman specifically admitted that he took $286,250 from Scott from 2003 through last year, according to the plea agreement, which alleges Tillman continue to receive money from Scott after his retirement and those payments constituted “hush money.”
Faces Up To 8 Years In Prison
Tillman failed to report the bribe payments on his federal tax returns, and agreed to plead guilty to tax evasion for the 2014 tax year, according to his plea deal. He is expected to appear for an arraignment in downtown Los Angeles on Jan. 31 and faces up to eight years in federal prison.
VA Contract Terminated
The VA contract with WSS was terminated in early 2017 after the VA settled a lawsuit that challenged the VA’s use of its West Los Angeles campus for any purposes not specifically related to the care and housing of veterans. Pursuant to an agreement, WSS was allowed to continue to operate the parking lots until this month.
Scott pleaded not guilty last month and is currently scheduled to go on trial Feb. 6 before U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner.