Federal courthouse
Federal courthouse in downtown San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

A U.S. Navy doctor pleaded guilty in San Diego federal court Tuesday to his role in a scheme that involved making false medical claims to a military insurance program in exchange for unearned benefits.

Michael Villarroel, 51, of Coronado, is one of 10 people to plead guilty in a scheme that bilked the Traumatic Servicemembers Groups Life Insurance Program out of around $2 million.

Prosecutors say Villarroel received over $180,000 in kickbacks for falsely claiming that he reviewed service members’ medical records and confirmed that they suffered from fraudulent or exaggerated ailments.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says Villarroel would sometimes provide medical determinations of patients he never met and at other times gave co-defendants medical records of other people, which were then used to fabricate claims.

Among his co-defendants are Christopher Toups, a former chief petty officer construction mechanic who allegedly encouraged other service members to submit claims, and Toups’ then-wife, Kelene Meyer, a former Navy nurse who prosecutors say falsified medical records to bolster the claims of fake injuries.

Toups and Meyer have also pleaded guilty and await sentencing later this year.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office also said several defendants were stationed locally as part of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Expeditionary Support Unit One in Coronado.

Updated at 5:43 p.m. March 28, 2023

City News Service contributed to this article.