WASHINGTON — A former U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs official pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of wire fraud and bribery after stealing more than $66,000 in benefit money, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Between September 2013 and May 2014, Maryland resident Russel Ware stole more than $21,000 in VA disability money by wiring payments in the names of legitimate beneficiaries to his personal bank account, according to the statement.

The 39-year-old from Upper Marlboro also directed additional disability benefits totaling nearly $46,000 of VA hardship money to a friend, Jacqueline Crawford, in Gulfport, Mississippi, between October 2014 and February 2015, the Justice Department stated, and Ware admitted he instructed Crawford to transfer more than $13,000 to him as a kickback.

According to the statement, Ware and Crawford were not entitled to receive the money.

In February, Crawford pleaded guilty to a single count of theft of government property and is awaiting sentencing.

Ware's sentencing has been scheduled for May 8 before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in the District of Columbia.

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