SAN DIEGO — A highly decorated combat pilot admitted stealing $124,000 from a national society of Distinguished Flying Cross winners to pay for his stable of horses and buy stocks in order to maintain his high-flying lifestyle.
Anthony Ventura, 71, of Lincoln, California, was awarded the medal and many other during the Vietnam War and served as the treasurer for the Distinguished Flying Cross Society from 2012 until 2016.
Federal prosecutors say that in 2014, Ventura — who once served as a senior vice president for Wachovia Securities — filed for personal bankruptcy following a series of poor business decisions.
But instead of cutting back on his lavish lifestyle, Ventura admitted dipping into the society’s coffers to cover bills related to his horse stable, pay for personal expenses and to buy stocks and bonds.
In addition to embezzling the funds, Ventura also admitted he filed false tax documents for the charity, claiming it had tens of thousands of dollars more in its accounts than it did.
“Regardless of how significant an individual’s contribution is to our society or how desperate their financial condition, there can be no excuse for stealing charitable funds that are destined for the awarding of scholarships,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson.
The Distinguished Flying Cross was first awarded by President Calvin Coolidge to Charles Lindbergh for his solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927. Other recipients include Amelia Earhart, the original seven astronauts, President George H.W. Bush and Sen. John McCain.