The phrase ‘keeping it in the family’ is most commonly used in the context of staying loyal to your kinfolk — not assuming their identity to reap federally-subsidized benefits only they have earned.
But according to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, that is exactly what Wayne Bowen, 64, did to his twin brother Warren, an Army veteran.
According to court documents, Bowen, of Jacksonville, Florida, pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated identity theft in January after stealing his twin brother’s identity in order to receive nearly $64,000 in benefits from multiple federal agencies, including the Department of Veterans Affairs.
So, while Warren Bowen — as an Army veteran with proven financial need — qualified for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HUD-VA Supportive Housing Program providing rental assistance for homeless veterans in addition to case management and healthcare benefits provided by the VA, his brother did not.
Bowen managed to bypass this fact by stealing his twin’s identity, even managing to obtain an otherwise-legitimate I.D. card from the state of Florida. Despite the two brothers reported estrangement though, Wayne Bowen also had his brother’s Social Security card and military discharge papers.
And when Bowen had previously been arrested for unspecified felony offenses, those were also under his twin’s name, according to the press release.
In total, Bowen had been fraudulently given more than $32,000 in medical services, nearly $19,000 in housing subsidies and more than $12,000 in nutritional benefits. As part of his plea agreement, Bowen agreed to fully reimburse each government agency, meaning that he will pay more than $12,000 to the U.S. Department of Agriculture; nearly $19,000 to the Department of Housing and Urban Development; and more than $32,000 to the VA.
According to the press release, Bowen’s twin confirmed that he had never applied for any of these benefits and had never given Warren Bowen permission to assume his identity. No comment was made, however, on what impact Wayne Bowen’s action would have for Warren.
“The defendant pleaded guilty today for his abhorrent conduct in defrauding multiple federal and state benefit programs by assuming the identify of his twin brother who had justly earned these benefits,” Special Agent David Spilker of the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General’s Southeast Field Office said in the press release.
The investigation was conducted by the VA’s Office of Inspector General, and the Office of Inspector Generals for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Coolican.
Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran, Penn State alumna and Master's candidate at New York University for Business and Economic Reporting.