The former head administrative clerk for Boston's Veterans' Services Department allegedly gambled away thousands of dollars on horse racing at a time when he was also demanding kickbacks from two women he paid as home health care aides for people receiving veteran's benefits.
"This was a very cynical and egregious breach of the public's trust,'' said Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Edward Beagan during the arraignment this morning of Joseph H. Miller on 20 charges, including attempted extortion, larceny, and being a public official making false statements.
Miller, a 12-year veteran of the department, appeared before Magistrate Gary Wilson in Suffolk Superior Court, wearing black jeans and a long-sleeve black shirt.
After each charge was read, he uttered in a soft voice, "not guilty." A grand jury issued an indictment against Miller last Friday and he was held briefly on a $240 cash bail.
Wilson, before increasing the bail to $1,000, called the case troubling and added, "hopefully there are no veterans who have been denied services because of this."
Prosecutors say in one case, Miller allegedly approached a childhood friend in November 2009 and proposed that she be paid by the department for providing health care aides services to her mother, who was in failing health and already receiving veteran's benefits.
She filled out the necessary paperwork but before she received the first check, Miller allegedly told her that she was required to hand over as much as $1,700 in cash to him from each monthly check. When she protested, according to prosecutors, Miller threatened to cut off her mother's benefits.
Miller, 57, of Beverly, also allegedly attempted to draw his niece into his scheme by filling out a false time sheet in her name for services totaling over $4,000.
He told his niece and her mother, his sister, that the check would arrive at their house. When it did arrive, they returned the check to City Hall.