[Hpn] Tampa poverty pimp's fictitious resume

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Mon, 15 Oct 2001 10:59:22 -0700


http://www.sptimes.com:80/News/101201/TampaBay/Records__Vietnam_stor.shtml

St. Petersburg Times,
published October 12, 2001

Records: Vietnam stories just that
 
Chester Luney, at the center of a federal inquiry into VA grant money, spins
tales of undercover work.

By CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD and JEFF TESTERMAN
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Chester Luney, at the center of a federal inquiry into VA grant money, spins
tales of undercover work.

TAMPA -- Chester M. Luney was never shy about discussing his tours of duty
in Vietnam. His war experience provided a bond with many of the
battle-scarred veterans he was paid to counsel for the Department of
Veterans Affairs. 

"He did two tours in Vietnam," said Ken Shackleford, 65, resident manager of
the Veterans Village shelter for homeless vets set up by Luney. "He's a fine
man, a caring man."

Steve LaBrake, the Tampa housing boss who benefitted from favors Luney did
for a controversial home LaBrake built in South Tampa, heard Luney's Vietnam
tales. "He alluded to (how) he was a paratrooper ... " LaBrake said.

Luney himself talked about it in an interview with the St. Petersburg Times.
"I've seen the spoils of war," Luney said. "I've seen the devastation."

He said he was a special operations officer who traveled undercover with Bob
Hope. His job: arresting military personnel involved in illegal arms
trading. 

There's just one problem with Luney's Vietnam memories: He was never there.

Luney, who is now the subject of a federal investigation regarding the
funneling of VA grant money to a non-profit agency he also ran, spent his
active military career stateside. He did stints from 1970 to 1974 at
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio and Lackland Air Force Base in
Texas, military records show.

"If he had served in Vietnam, it would be reflected in his record," said
William Coleman, spokesman for the National Personnel Records Center in St.
Louis. 

As for his undercover work with Bob Hope, Coleman said: "It makes a good
story. It might make a good movie."

Luney, 56, abruptly resigned his $80,279-a-year VA job last week and is now
being investigated by the Inspector General's Office.

Luney could not be reached for comment. Luney's doctorate in education was
excellent training for work he did in a rehabilitation program for veterans
returning home during the troop drawdown in Vietnam, said Harold Reitan, 72,
a retired Air Force colonel who supervised Luney at Lackland from 1971 to
1974. 

"If you could have seen the workload here, you would understand why he
didn't go" to Vietnam, Reitan said.

The VA Inspector General's Office opened an investigation this week after
learning that Luney was using his VA position to write grants that funneled
$415,337 to the Tampa-Hillsborough Action Plan, where Luney is paid $78,000
a year as executive director.

Investigators also want to know more about VA subsidies THAP receives to
house homeless vets at Veterans Village, an apartment complex THAP owns.

Arthur Rosenblatt, Luney's former supervisor at the James A. Haley VA
Hospital in Tampa, said federal grant money was supposed to provide vets a
rent-free home and free meals. But veterans told the Times they are required
to pay $150 a month in rent -- always in cash -- and never get meals.

Rosenblatt also said that Luney is not a clinical psychologist, as Luney
told the Times. Luney was a counseling psychologist at the VA.

Last month, Luney acknowledged favors worth thousands of dollars to help
LaBrake and his girlfriend, Lynne McCarter, build a 4,200-square-foot home.
A federal grand jury and the Florida Ethics Commission are trying to
determine whether LaBrake or McCarter used undue influence in building the
house. 

- Times staff writer Kathryn Wexler and researcher John Martin contributed
to this report. 
------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Copyright 2001 St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved

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