As a senior AUSA in San Jose in 2013, I was in court when a rookie prosecutor was about to give away a “minor” theft case. I glanced at the file and learned that the victim, Jennifer Jergens, was the wife of a seriously wounded soldier who was a patient at the VA. She had been visiting her husband and left the room briefly. Then the lowest of the low struck.
The more I learned the angrier I became.
Army Sergeant Brian Jergens was on his first deployment when he lost both of his legs below the knee and sustained a severe traumatic brain injury, hearing loss, internal organ damage, a broken neck, and damage to his right elbow in an IED blast in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan on August 7, 2011.
An Army Medic, SGT Jergens was the driver of the fourth HMMWV in a convoy that day, and was thrown from the vehicle. Life-saving measures performed by his teammates prepared him for medevac to Tarin Kowt Hospital and then the Kandahar Airfield Hospital. Next transported to Bagram Air Force Base, Brian would also be treated in Landstuhl, Germany before coming stateside. Arriving at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, TX on Aug.14, 2012, Brian remained there until September 19, 2012.
I grabbed the file and made it a mission. End of the story, I discovered a cabal of felons hired by a fraudster contractor as janitors, who were preying on helpless veterans. Many felony convictions for aggravated identity theft and related crimes followed.
We then did a sting on the contractor. She was a “disabled veteran” herself – completely fraudulent – on a 100+% disability. Yeah $100+! No one at the VA could explain that. Every accommodation, including a free handicapped luxury car – the whole 9 yards.
So we did a sting on her. I had a UC solicit her for maintenance on a warehouse we borrowed. Had her ON TAPE using one of those gigantic metal floor waxers, lifting heavy boxes to clear the floor and putting then up on shelving. We had her dead to rights.
This was one of my last cases before I retired. The contractor part was transferred to a legendary AUSA, Phil Guentert.
Phil would bury this fraudulent bitch for me!
Alas, a tragic finale.
I didn’t know it, but Phil had cancer at the time, and he was never able to finish the case, which ended up falling through the cracks.
Read his obit. Amazing career, great guy, giant killer. We had a few of them in our office.
Thomas M. O’Connell is the former Senior Litigation Counsel and Chief of the Narcotics and Violent Crimes Section of the United States Attorney’s Office in Las Vegas, Nevada. In addition to his 13 years in the Las Vegas U.S. Attorneys Office, he served for 8 years in the Northern District of California. Tom retired in 2013 and relocated back to Las Vegas. Since then, he has helped trained Las Vegas Metro, North Las Vegas and Henderson police, and U.S. Probation. He’s addressed inmates at High Desert State Prison and guest lectured at both UNLV and Boyd School of Law.