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Disbarred Veterans Lawyer Now Facing 67-Count Federal Indictment, Including Social Security Fraud

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Michael Volpe Contributor

A former Memphis lawyer first exposed by The Daily Caller in 2014 is now facing sixty-seven federal criminal counts.

Keith L. Dobbs, 39, is a disbarred Memphis, Tennessee attorney and last week the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee announced the indictment.

Dobbs was charged, “with a total of sixty-seven federal felony violations. In addition, one indictment seeks the forfeiture of at least $406,533.00 in criminal proceeds,” according to a statement from the Social Security Office of the Inspector General.

“According to the two indictments, Dobbs misappropriated funds from 26 victims who received veteran’s benefits and nine Social Security recipients. Dobbs acted as a fiduciary for these victims because they were unable to manage their benefits due to physical or mental disabilities. The indictments were the result of a joint investigation conducted by the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Office of Inspector General for the Social Security Administration.”

Dobbs was first featured in an August 2014 article in the Caller, in which he was accused of overcharging and misappropriating from, Norman Hughes, a Korean and Vietnam War veteran under his care in the VA Fiduciary program. (RELATED: Korean, Vietnam War Vet Inside VA System Held Against His Will)

The VA Fiduciary program “was established to protect veterans and other beneficiaries who, due to injury, disease or age, are unable to manage their financial affairs. VA will only determine an individual to be unable to manage his or her financial affairs after receipt of medical documentation or if a court of competent jurisdiction has already made the determination,” according to Military.com.

In Hughes’ case, the evidence of his incapacitation was dubious, and Hughes was also forced to stay at assisted living facility where he felt like a prisoner and the monthly fee, $7,200 was nearly three times the rent, $2,700, he was paying before being forced into guardianship.

“I need somebody to help me get out of here,” Hughes said to the Caller in 2014.

This May 19, 2014 photo shows a a sign in front of the Veterans Affairs building in Washington, DC. The VA and Secretary Eric Shinseki are under fire amid reports by former and current VA employees that up to 40 patients may have died because of delayed treatment at an agency hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. AFP PHOTO / Karen BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

Hughes has since died, but Debbie McCoy was Hughes’ caretaker and he stayed with her prior to being forced by Hughes to an assisted living facility.

McCoy said Hughes believed Dobbs was stealing from him, including his social security funds.

The press release explained more about Dobbs’ social security fraud: “Dobbs applied to the Social Security Administration to be the representative payee for nine beneficiaries, and was appointed representative payee for each of the nine victims. According to the indictment, Dobbs converted the nine victims’ Social Security benefits to his own use by drawing checks on their accounts made payable to him; transferring funds from their accounts into an account that he controlled; and by using the funds in the victims’ accounts to make purchases and pay bills.”

When Dobbs entered Hughes’ life in late 2012, Hughes had approximately $150,000 saved up, it was down to an estimated $80,000 at the time of the 2014 story.

While the indictment doesn’t list the names of the victims, it does list the initials, including N.H.

McCoy said Dobbs called soon after himself being reached by the Caller for comment in 2014; Dobbs threatened her, suggesting he would cut the minimal time she could spend with Hughes if the media got involved.

Crime appeared to pay off for some time for Dobbs. Part of the press release reads, “according to the mail fraud indictment, Dobbs used funds embezzled from the veterans’ accounts to pay his personal obligations, such as credit card bills and rent, and to purchase items, such as a BMW automobile.”

Sean Higgins is a frequent Memphis VA whistleblower and he knows Hughes’ son; around the time of the 2014 story, he said he spotted Dobbs driving a Porsche.

Higgins said he confronted him in a local bar, “You need to give Norman his money back, or I’m going to see you in jail,” Higgins remembers telling him.

Dobbs’ life has spiraled downhill since that 2014 article in the Caller.

In February 2016, the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper did a follow up on Dobbs, finding a pattern of malfeasance on his part.

Among the revelations was that Dobbs was being investigated by the VA Office of Inspector General’s Office (VAOIG) and that he had been removed from all his VA Fiduciary roles.

On July 21, 2016, Dobbs was disbarred by the Tennessee Bar Association.

In January 2017, he was arrested for domestic assault of his seventy-four year old father, though the charges were later dropped.

On January 18, 2017, he was in trouble again with the Tennessee Bar Association, this time for practicing without license. Part of that ruling states, “On January 13, 2017, Keith Lamonte Dobbs, an attorney formerly licensed to practice law in Tennessee, received a Public Censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court. … Mr. Dobbs assisted a client with the filing of tax information related to probate matters after he was suspended from the practice of law.”

On June 19, 2019, he was indicted on sixty-seven federal counts in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee.

Dobbs was represented by attorney Michael Scholl starting in 2016. Scholl did not respond to a message left with his office.

It’s not clear if he still represents Dobbs, and none of the paperwork associated with the federal case currently lists an attorney for Dobbs.

Matt Hall’s sister, Blae Bryce, is another victim of Dobbs. (RELATED: Memphis VA Hospital Remains Troubled, Despite Secretary’s Assurance It Has ‘Turned A Corner’)

“Bless his heart,” Hall said when informed of the indictment against Dobbs.

Hall’s sister had approximately $35,000 saved up when Dobbs became her VA Fiduciary; it was done to approximately $3,000 when he was removed in 2016. Hall said his sister should have had more than enough income to cover her monthly expenses. He said his sister’s mental health has continued to deteriorate and though he was able to have her moved to Texas, near where he lives, she is now in an assisted living facility.

Hall said he doesn’t blame Dobbs for his sister’s mental health deteriorating, but he said despite her issues, she was always certain Dobbs was stealing from her.

“She told everyone [that Dobbs was stealing],” Hall said; he thinks despite her mental health state he believes his sister helped to awake those in power to Dobbs’ crimes.

Dobbs was supposed to be supervised by the VA Fiduciary Hub based in Louisville, Kentucky.

Martin Greenwell is the spokesman for the Veterans Benefits Administration’s fiduciary hub in Louisville, Kentucky, and he did not respond to a voicemail for comment.

One noteworthy discovery from the 2014 article was that Dobbs always received the same judge in Shelby County Probate Court, Judge Karen Webster; two judges heard cases on the court.

At the time of the article, Dobbs had twenty cases in Shelby County Probate Court, including seven veteran cases.

A phone call to Judge Webster’s chambers was left unreturned.

Cherri Green is the public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee.

She was asked if the investigation is still open for Webster or anyone else but declined to answer.

“We refer you to the press release and indictment.” Green said. “There will be no further comment from this office.”

Webster is not mentioned in the press release or indictment.

“Immediately after receiving allegations of improper behavior, VA took action to investigate and remove Dobbs and make all affected Veterans whole,” a spokesperson for the VA told The Daily Caller in a statement. “Because Dobbs’ crimes centered on the creation and submission of fake documents, VA has enhanced its document review policies and procedures to prevent similar incidents in the future.”