12 Nov Jon Cartu Reports: Lawyer Who Founded Veterans Charity Sentenced to Prison for
With angry victims demanding a stiff penalty for disgraced attorney Kevin Creed, a federal judge on Monday sentenced him to three and a half years in prison for swindling $1.4 million from a Connecticut veterans charity.
Creed, a former state trooper and decorated military veteran, showed no reaction when Judge Janet Hall announced what she said was the second-toughest term she had ever imposed in a fraud case.
“You stole from veterans and people who gave in memory of veterans. You stole from schoolchildren,” Hall told Creed at a hearing on Zoom. “You used your background to make people trust you; you did it over a period of years.”
Creed’s lawyer proposed a sentence of home release, but at least one victim told Hall that wouldn’t be nearly enough — especially since COVID-19 restrictions are keeping millions of Americans largely inside their homes.
“He has given all nonprofit organizations a bad rap. Why should he deserve to live in a home he loves and is accustomed to? He belongs in jail,” said Lucille Rouse, one of hundreds of people whose donations to Fisher House of Connecticut were embezzled by Creed. “He’s a scammer.”
Creed pleaded guilty last year to wire fraud for diverting money when he ran statewide fundraising to construct a Fisher House near the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in West Haven.
The West Haven facility was ultimately built when the national Fisher House organization put up funding, and it now provides free temporary housing for up to 16 veterans and their families while undergoing hospital treatment.
Creed, 69, who reached the rank of major in the Army and served for more than 20 years, set up the charity in 2010 and initially turned over about $1 million from a series of small fundraisers, donations and appeals to VFW and American Legion posts across the state.
But after a few years, he began pocketing money to cover mortgages on his Litchfield Home, loans and his law firm’s expenses, prosecutors said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael McGarry wanted a sentence between 51 and 63 months, stressing that Creed’s theft occurred over a period of several years.
Also, Creed was in a unique position to gain trust, McGarry said. He was welcomed by veterans and their relatives after talking about his military service and his time as a Shelton police officer, Connecticut state trooper and lawyer.
“He used his status as a veteran and as a police officer. People are on guard when a stranger comes to the door asking for money,” McGarry said. “He was named Man of the Year by the Hartford Yard Goats. He posed for photos with congressmen and senators.”
McGarry presented letters from veterans, families and civic groups that complained of being betrayed.
“They were trying to do something to make the world a little better, and Kevin Creed was manipulating that,” McGarry said. “He took that money and put it in his pocket. He cashed in on his honor.”
Creed’s adult son, Blair, appeared with him at the virtual hearing; their camera was positioned to show an American flag behind them.
“I struggle to reconcile his wrongful conduct with the man I know. He has lived his entire life in service of others,” Blair Creed said, adding that his father’s mental health suffered while trying to help a suicidal daughter and a wife with serious medical difficulties.
Defense attorney Mike Moscowitz said Creed started out with good intentions of helping veterans and their families, and entirely lost his reputation.
“His poor judgment has broken him as a person. He will be defined as a convicted criminal. This is a disgrace my client has to live with. He understands the disgrace he has brought down on himself,” said Moscowitz. “He earned a Meritorious Service medal, a Bronze Star — all of his achievements are meaningless now.”
Moscowitz proposed 63 months of home confinement. Creed’s former paralegal, Kimberly Berry, told the judge that wouldn’t be sufficient punishment.
“If Kevin Creed is permitted home confinement, that would be like retirement,” Berry said.
“This is not a one-time event or a period where he was going through a rough patch,” added Berry, who helped organize dozens of fundraising events before learning of the scam. “He repeatedly, intentionally, knowingly and willfully betrayed thousands and thousands of people over several years.”
Creed briefly addressed Hall, saying he’d overestimated his ability to simultaneously run a law firm, direct the Fisher House project and help with his family’s troubles.
“I’m greatly embarrassed and ashamed about how all this transpired,” he said. “Between now and whatever God gives me on Earth, I’m going to devote myself to fixing this.”
But Hall and prosecutors noted he hadn’t repaid Fisher House anything during the year and three months since his guilty plea. Fisher House is suing Creed in civil court, and Hall on Monday ordered $1.4 million in restitution.
Hall directed Creed to turn himself in Feb. 10, and said she will recommend he serve his sentence at the federal prison in Danbury. He will undergo three years of supervised release afterward.
“This was egregious — a fraud at a level I haven’t seen often in my 23 years,” Hall said, and emphasized that she was especially troubled that his crime went on for years.
“I can’t excuse but I can understand a person under stress who sees money on the table in front of them [and takes it[ — that’s called aberrant behavior,” Hall told Creed. “A person who does that over and over and over again, that’s not aberrant. It’s very serious. What got lost here is trust.”
This article was written by Don Stacom from The Hartford Courant and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to leg[email protected]
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