Patrick Chorpenning, the former director of the Arizona Department of Veterans' Services, pleaded not guilty today to charges of fraud and misuse of public funds.
The state Attorney General's office is prosecuting Chorpenning after a two-year investigation turned up a mountain of evidence that he had abused his position. An Auditor General's report revealed he had hired his wife and son to high-paying jobs and spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars outside of normal procedures.
Often, according to media reports following the November 20 announcement of his indictment, Chorpenning diverted money into his friends' pockets.
Investigators accused him of misappropriating more than $1 million in public funds.
For example, Chorpenning is accused of spending $85,000 to create a bogus veterans' group, then spent another $6,000 to hold a news conference about the group. His personal trainer later told investigators that Chorpenning had paid him to claim he was the fake group's director, the Arizona Republic reported.
To help cover for his extravagant spending, auditors found, Chorpenning cut back on services for veterans.
Chorpenning was appointed to lead the department in 1999 by former Governor Jane Hull. He resigned in 2007 after allegations of malfeasance at the department-run nursing home.
If he's found guilty, maybe he could serve his sentence helping combat veterans -- in Afghanistan.
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