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Portsmouth woman pleads guilty to defrauding veterans

Rita Copeland faces up to 20 years for wire fraud and a mandatory consecutive term of two years for aggravated identity theft when she is sentenced later this year.
Credit: Brian Jackson - stock.adobe.com

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — A Portsmouth woman pleaded guilty to federal charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a scheme to defraud veterans.

According to court documents, 59-year-old Rita Copeland ran a company called “Veteran Services of the Commonwealth,” where she purported to provide caregiving, contracting, and rental assistance services to various veterans from 2016 through 2020.

Copeland had several victims apply for Home Improvements and Structural Alterations grants through the Department of Veterans Affairs. HISA grants are used for certain designated improvements to the residences of veterans.

Prosecutors say Copeland didn't perform all of the promised work and kept some of the grant money for herself. She also diverted the income and retirement fund payments of another veteran to her bank account, as well as illegally using the elderly veteran's credit and debit cards.

On top of all that, Copeland also engaged in a rental fraud scheme where she claimed she would link veterans with landlords but instead would keep rental and security deposit payments for herself.

On Monday, Copeland pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Copeland faces up to 20 years for wire fraud and a mandatory consecutive term of two years for aggravated identity theft. She is scheduled to be sentenced on August 27.