Portsmouth woman charged with fraud, identify theft targeting veterans

Posted at 7:24 PM, Oct 10, 2020

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – A federal grand jury returned an indictment today charging a Portsmouth woman with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a scheme to defraud veterans.

According to allegations in the indictment, Rita Copeland, 59, operated “Veteran Services of the Commonwealth.”

Officials say Copeland purported to provide caregiving, contracting and rental assistance services to various veterans from 2016 through 2019.

Copeland allegedly caused a number of veterans to apply for Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) grants through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Officials say Copeland allegedly failed to perform all of the promised work and kept a portion of these payments to her own benefit.

Copeland also allegedly transferred the income and retirement fund payments of another veteran to a bank account that she had opened. She allegedly fraudulently obtained and diverted loan funds and used the credit and debit cards of this elderly victim. Finally, Copeland also allegedly engaged in a rental fraud scheme, purporting to link veterans with landlords, but then using rental and security deposit payments to her own benefit.

Copeland has been charged with eight counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.

If convicted, Copeland faces a maximum penalty of 20 years on the wire fraud charges and a mandatory consecutive term of two years on the aggravated identity theft charge.

Officials say combating elder abuse and financial fraud targeted at seniors is a key priority of the Department of Justice.