SAN DIEGO — A U.S. Navy doctor from Coronado pleaded guilty Tuesday to defrauding the military branch, prosecutors said.
Dr. Michael Villarroel, 51, admitted that he and others conspired to defraud the Navy by faking or exaggerating injuries to obtain insurance payments intended to help service members recovering from traumatic injuries, Kelly Thornton with the Office of the United States Attorney Southern District of California stated in a news release.
“Participants in the scheme obtained about $2 million in payments from the Traumatic Servicemembers Groups Life Insurance (TSGLI) program which is funded by service members and the Navy. Villarroel personally obtained more than $180,000 in kickbacks,” Thornton said.
Villarroel, the tenth defendant to plead guilty to crimes committed under the scheme, says he signed off on applications for a share of the insurance payments, knowing the claimed injuries were false or exaggerated, according to officials.
From 2012 to at least December 2015, Villarroel revealed he conspired to commit wire fraud with Christopher Toups, a chief petty officer construction mechanic in the Navy; Kelene Meyer, Toups’ spouse and a nurse; and others, the news release said.
“Villarroel claimed to have reviewed medical records and verified disabilities consistent with the injuries as needed for claims to be processed and qualify,” Thornton said. “At times Villarroel supported his determination by falsely stating he interviewed the claimant. At other times Villarroel gave Meyer medical records belonging to others to use in fabricating claims.”
Several conspirators were members of the Coronado-based Explosive Ordinance Disposal Expeditionary Support Unit One (“EOD ESU One”), per officials.
Villarroel is scheduled to be sentenced on June 16 at 9 a.m.