A veteran who lived three miles from VA Maine Healthcare System-Togus has admitted to claiming falsely he traveled hundreds of miles to get there in order to collect reimbursement of $17,725.

Stephen John Longstaff, 54, of Chelsea, pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court in Bangor to filing false, fictitious and fraudulent claims.

According to a prosecution document filed with the court, Longstaff made 156 false claims for Veterans Affairs travel benefits between June 2009 and February 2012.

He claimed he was traveling to Togus for treatment from locations in Washington and Hancock counties.

For example, the prosecution memo says that on Feb. 15, Longstaff signed a patient data card saying he was due reimbursement for a 358-mile round-trip to the Washington County town of Charlotte. Investigators found that while Longstaff’s ex-wife and daughter do live there, Longstaff told them he had never been there.

Reimbursement was paid at 41 cents per mile then.

A statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maine says, “VA travel benefits are reimbursements for travel expenses paid to individuals who meet certain eligibility criteria and who must travel to receive VA services.”

The investigators took photos of Longstaff’s green Subaru Legacy at his home on Hallowell Road in Chelsea.

He told investigators he has lived mostly in the Augusta area.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Longstaff must repay the money. It says he has accepted responsibility for the offense and waives his right to appeal a sentence of less than six months’ imprisonment.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Justice John A. Woodcock Jr. ordered Longstaff freed on $5,000 unsecured bail pending sentencing.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]