Military installations
A 2008 ceremony at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. Some of the co-conspirators in the fraud case were stationed on the base. Photo credit: Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kevin Beauchamp, via dvids

A former U.S. Navy serviceman pleaded guilty in San Diego Thursday for his role in a fraud scheme that involved making false medical claims to a military insurance program.

Christopher Toups, 43, of Woodstock, Ga., is one of nine defendants — including three from San Diego County — charged by federal prosecutors with allegedly bilking the Traumatic Servicemembers Group Life Insurance Program out of around $2 million.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says Toups, a former chief petty officer and construction mechanic, took in around $400,000 throughout the scheme, which lasted from 2012 to 2015.

Prosecutors allege Toups and other service members submitted claims based on fake or exaggerated injuries and disabilities, and were assisted by a doctor and nurse in falsifying medical records.

When others received payments on claims, Toups received part of the money as a “processing fee,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Kickbacks also allegedly went to Dr. Michael Villarroel of Coronado, the medical doctor for the unit where Toups worked, and Kelene McGrath, a former Navy nurse, and Toups’ spouse during the time of the offenses.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office also said some of Toups’ co-defendants were stationed locally as part of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Expeditionary Support Unit One in Coronado.

Toups is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 3, 2023.

“The Traumatic Servicemembers Group Life Insurance Program is designed to compensate service members who suffer serious and debilitating injuries while on active duty,”  said Stacey Moy, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI San Diego Division. “Falsely claiming benefits from this program siphons money from deserving beneficiaries and makes medical care more costly for all of us.”

City News Service


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Ellen Bullock