SAN ANTONIO – A Dripping Springs woman who embellished her Army veteran husband’s wartime injuries to carry out a lengthy fraud scheme was sentenced to nearly four years in prison by a federal judge in San Antonio on Thursday.
Josephine Perez-Gorda, 40, must report to prison to begin serving her 46-month sentence by June 5.
Judge Fred Biery denied a request from Perez-Gorda’s attorney for her to remain free while a possible appeal of her conviction plays out.
A jury in September found Perez-Gorda guilty of all 18 counts against her, which ranged from wire fraud to making false statements related to health care matters and theft of government funds.
“Dillon, you know I don’t want to talk to you,” said Perez-Gorda as she walked into court Thursday morning surrounded by her attorney and supporters.
For nearly six years, from 2011 to 2017, Perez-Gorda falsely told federal agencies her husband, Army Specialist Justin Perez-Gorda, was paralyzed from the belly button down.
Justin Perez-Gorda suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving in Afghanistan in early 2011.
While the couple claimed in Veterans Affairs and Social Security paperwork that he had lost the use of his lower extremities, footage gathered by federal investigators showed Justin Perez-Gorda walking.
Justin Perez-Gorda died while in federal custody in Missouri while awaiting trial early last year. Josephine Perez-Gorda’s attorney revealed in court Thursday that he died of complications from using a catheter for a bladder disorder.
Officials with the Federal Bureau of Prisons had previously refused to release Justin Perez-Gorda’s cause of death.
“In her mind, Josephine was just trying to help her severely injured soldier husband,” her attorney told Judge Biery.
But Judge Biery repeatedly took issue with Josephine Perez-Gorda’s actions, including her buying a $110,000 truck while the criminal case against her was ongoing and while she was represented by a court-appointed attorney.
Judge Biery pointed out that the government has spent nearly $200,000 providing her an attorney and an investigator, even though her finances show she is clearly not indigent.
Judge Biery also took issue with Josephine Perez-Gorda leaving her then-husband behind while she took a trip to Disney World, despite filling out caregiver paperwork claiming he needed around-the-clock care.
The judge noted that Josephine Perez-Gorda has not taken responsibility for her crimes and did not pay restitution prior to her sentencing date.
Josephine Perez-Gorda will serve three years of community supervision after her release and owes more than $501,000 in restitution.
She was allowed to remain free long enough to see her youngest daughter graduate.
“She exerted significant control over him. She did injury to a soldier who was hurt,” assistant U.S. attorney Greg Surovic told the court.
Surovic said Josephine Perez-Gorda isolated her husband and knew that he was emotionally and mentally vulnerable.
What comes of the specially adapted house?
The couple was gifted a custom-built specially adapted house in Dripping Springs in late 2013 from the charity Homes For Our Troops.
A 10-year lien was placed on the home, which was scheduled to be transferred to the couple free and clear this December.
Homes For Our Troops Executive Director Bill Ivey told KSAT after Josephine Perez-Gorda was convicted last fall, however, that it had suspended equity accrual on the property in July 2021, after learning that Justin Perez-Gorda was no longer living there.
Ivey said the charity will move to repossess the property after Josephine Perez-Gorda goes to prison, pending any appeals in her case.
Josephine Perez-Gorda’s attorney said “no comment” when asked by KSAT if he planned to appeal her conviction.
Josephine Perez-Gorda told the court Thursday she planned to have her daughters continue living in the home while she was in prison.