Former Phoenix VA Hospital director gets probation

Former Phoenix Veterans Administration Hospital Director Sharon M. Helman, 45, of Surprise, was sentenced by Judge Steven P. Logan to two years probation, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Hospital director from February 2012 to December 2014, she previously pleaded guilty to making a false statement to a government agency, which is a felony offense.  Federal law required Ms. Helman to annually complete and file a financial disclosure report, disclosing such things as gifts received during the applicable calendar year.

“It is crucial that government officials, who are entrusted with authority over taxpayer-funded government agencies, provide accurate information when completing financial disclosure reports,” stated U.S. Attorney John S. Leonardo. “Today’s outcome appropriately holds the defendant responsible for failing to report tens of thousands of dollars of gifts from a lobbyist while she was serving as the head of the Phoenix VA facility.”

In March 2014, Ms. Helman submitted a financial disclosure that she falsely reported not receiving gifts during 2013 when she did receive an automobile, a check for $5,000, concert tickets, and two round-trip airline tickets, gifts totaling more than $19,300. She also filed a false report for 2012, failing to report four gifts for more than $2,000.

Although she did not file a financial disclosure report for 2014, Ms. Helman received six gifts exceeding $27,700 between Jan. 2 and July 1 of that year.

All of the gifts were from a former high-level VA employee who was a former supervisor of hers. From 2012 to 2014, that person was an executive consultant, and later vice president of a consulting and lobbying firm that assisted companies in expanding their business with the VA.

If Ms. Helman properly reported the gifts and their source, the VA would have done a conflict-of-interest analysis instead to determine whether her acceptance of the gifts was permitted under applicable laws and regulations.

“The FBI recognizes and appreciates the tremendous sacrifice and service our veterans have made for our country. With this in mind, we conducted a thorough and extensive investigation of the allegations surrounding the Phoenix VA. Our investigation revealed that the former director of the Phoenix VA Medical Center failed to report gifts as required under federal law and this outcome holds the defendant accountable,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael D. Deleon.

“Financial disclosure requirements are critical to ensuring that VA is able to assess any potential conflict of interest that VA executives may have,” stated Special Agent in Charge Michael E. Seitler, of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, Northwest Field Office. “In this case, Ms. Helman’s failure to fully disclose her financial relationships, called into question her actions and decisions as a VA executive.”

The FBI and the Department of Veterans Affairs-Office of the Inspector General investigation conducted this case. The prosecution was handled by Frank T. Galati, assistant U.S. attorney, District of Arizona, Phoenix.

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