Duo arrested in scheme to scam veterans

Couple defrauded veterans needing help, Rockledge police say

ROCKLEDGE, Fla. - Rockledge police arrested a Cocoa man and his female accomplice, saying the couple devised a scheme to defraud veterans by saying they would help get disability benefits for them, Local 6 News partner Florida Today reported.

Philip C. Cassamassima, 57, was charged with scheme to defraud, impersonating an attorney, theft of more than $300 but less than $5,000, and false statement to obtain currency.

Dora Richards, 44, of Cocoa, was charged with scheme to defraud, impersonating a registered nurse, theft of more than $300 but less than $5,000.

Both were being held Thursday in the Brevard County Detention Center. Richards was being held on $18,000 bond.

Bond had not yet been set for Cassamassima.

Police said Cassamassima portrayed himself as a "specialized VA lawyer" for Quest Litigations, which assisted veterans in getting disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Quest Litigations does not exist, police said. Officers said Richards pretended to be a registered nurse who would perform medical examinations on veterans before they would receive benefits.

They were arrested Wednesday night at the home of an alleged victim on Summerset Drive in Rockledge.

Officers said in a report that Cassamassima charged the veteran a $1,000 fee, but insisted that "gift" be written on the check.

He collected the victim's personal information, including date of birth, Social Security number, military records, marriage certificate and his son's birth certificate.

Police said Cassamassima then tried to charge the veteran another $1,500 but "did him a favor" by lowering it to $300, which the man would be expected to pay later.

Part of the scheme involved telling the veteran that he wins 90 percent of his cases and that the man could expect to receive $10,000 to $250,000 in benefits through the suspect's legal services, according to the report.

The veteran's wife, who really is a registered nurse, became suspicious after Richards examined her husband.

She investigated over the Internet and found that Cassamassima had a criminal history, including theft and schemes to defraud, officers said in the report.

A third meeting was set up in which the victim was to pay the $300.

Rockledge police moved in and arrested Cassamassima and Richards.

They said Richards was in possession of paperwork with other names, which indicates additional victims.

Richards told police that Cassamassima had personal information for at least nine other individuals.

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