Norfolk pastor sentenced for fraudulent benefit claims

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — A Norfolk pastor has been sentenced to 10 months in federal prison for submitting fraudulent claims for disability benefits for veterans.

The Virginian-Pilot reports that 56-year-old Michael Blanchard was sentenced Tuesday in federal court. He pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of making false statements.

Blanchard has served as pastor of the Corner Stone Christian Center in Norfolk since 1992. Authorities say he submitted disability compensation claims to the Department of Veterans Affairs on behalf of 90 veterans. Blanchard acted without the veterans’ knowledge and forged their signatures on the applications. He asked that checks be mailed to his address. No checks were ever sent.

At the sentencing hearing, Blanchard told the judge: “I was wrong. I lost my way.”

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