Man Sentenced For Bilking State Pension Program Of $1 Million

Elderly From Across Country Applied For Colorado's Old Age Pension Program

A Lakewood man who recruited elderly Vietnamese men and women to sign up for the state's Old Age Pension program for which they were not entitled to was sentenced to six years in prison.

Jeffrey Dan Van, 48, was also ordered to pay restitution for bilking the state out of an estimated $1 million but because he had been receiving disability income for the past 22 years, he could only afford very small restitution payments, his attorney said.

Van had pleaded guilty to theft and forgery on July 6.

According to his guilty plea, from January 2001 through the end of 2008, Dan Van recruited more than 45 Vietnamese people from across the country.

Van told the seniors that Colorado law was more liberal and that they could receive these benefits in Colorado even though they were not eligible for them in the states where they lived, said district attorney spokeswoman Pam Russell.

These older Vietnamese men and women came from all over the U.S. to meet with Van.

Van accompanied the elderly Vietnamese men and women to the Human Services Department in Golden and, acting as interpreter, signed them up to receive the $629 monthly benefit.

He would help register them in the program using his own home address or that of one of his relatives living in Jefferson County, Russell said.

The benefit was given to the participants in the form of a debit card that could be used to withdraw cash or for the purchase of goods and services. Van would pay the elderly Vietnamese a small amount and keep the rest of the benefit for himself.

The elderly couples did not speak English. Investigators believe that they were all in the U.S. legally; most were sponsored by family members who are U.S. citizens.

“This was a lengthy and extremely difficult investigation,” said District Attorney Scott Storey. "All of the witnesses lived out of state and did not speak English. Based on many interviews, it still isn't clear if they understood what Van was doing and their role in this fraudulent activity. Investigators for the Jefferson County Department of Human Services and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worked closely with our investigators and did an excellent job in this case."

Prosecutors believe Van had taken over $1 million over eight years.

He did not hold assets in his name but in the name of family members.

Judge Brooke Jackson said he considered white collar crime to be as serious as the other crimes he sees in his courtroom and that anything less than a prison sentence would not serve as an appropriate punishment or as a deterrent to others who might consider this an option.

"It is our intent now, to work with our state legislature to ensure that any relevant laws are tightened to prevent this type of fraudulent activity from occurring again," said Lynn Johnson, director of Jefferson County Human Services.