Just three weeks after the Marathon bombings, victims and their families gathered at a Town Hall meeting to discuss the One Fund Boston. Among them was Branden Mattier, who said his aunt had lost her leg in the attack and needed help with her medical bills.
“I’d like for my aunt to be compensated immediately,” he said, according to a report from the Reuters news agency. “Those hospital bills are coming in.”
But they weren’t, authorities said Tuesday. Mattier’s aunt, it turned out, had been dead for more than a decade.
Mattier’s appearance at the One Fund meeting was the first step in a brazen attempt to defraud the relief effort of nearly $2.2 million, prosecutors said.
It did not work. Mattier is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday on charges of attempted larceny and identity theft, both misdemeanors. If convicted, he could serve up to five years in prison.
In June, the 22-year-old submitted a claim on his aunt’s behalf that included a letter, ostensibly from a Boston Medical Center trauma specialist, describing the aunt as a double amputee.
Mattier’s alleged scheme drew immediate suspicion, and upon investigation quickly unraveled. But to make sure Mattier was behind the plan, investigators played along until he had the check — a fake — in his grasp.
The One Fund sent Mattier a letter notifying him the claim had been granted and that a check would be delivered by courier the next morning. On Tuesday, within moments of receiving a simulated check from an undercover state trooper, Mattier was arrested outside his South End home, his alleged scheme dashed just as it appeared bound to succeed.
“He was apparently very eager waiting for the check,” said Martha Coakley, the state’s attorney general.
Coakley said One Fund administrators notified her office in June after they reviewed the claim. The aunt’s name, Onevia Bradley, was not on their list of victims who had lost limbs in the attack, she said.
“The name itself didn’t jibe,” she said.
Mattier included a photocopied letter ostensibly from Boston Medical Center’s chief of trauma services that had a logo that resembled the hospital’s, Coakley said. The letter was signed, not stamped, but included the necessary information. “It was sufficient on its face for what they required,” the attorney general said.
Camille Biros, deputy administrator of One Fund Boston, said the claim included documentation that raised eyebrows, and the fund quickly notified authorities.
“It just seemed a little unusual,” Biros said.
Officials at Boston Medical Center said no one by Bradley’s name had received treatment after the bombings, and that the letter documenting injuries was not authentic. The letter was also dated May 2, well before Mattier had contacted the One Fund asking if his aunt could make a claim as a double amputee even if only one amputation had been performed at that point.
Coakley commended the fund for its care in reviewing the claim, which she said protected victims and donors alike.
“Because every dollar was allocated to victims, he sought to take these funds away from real victims and from the thousands of people who had so generously given,” she said.
Erika Galvis, whose parents were seriously injured in the bombings, said the alleged scam was repulsive, but was never likely to succeed.
“In reality, these questionable people rarely get away with it,” she said.
On Sunday, One Fund Boston began distributing nearly $61 million to 232 victims and families. Those whose relatives died and those who had two limbs amputated or suffered permanent brain damage will each receive nearly $2.2 million. The 14 victims who lost one limb will each receive about $1.2 million, while 69 other people injured in the attacks will receive $125,000 to $948,300, depending on the length of their hospitalization.
At Mattier’s South End apartment, there was no answer Tuesday. But a neighbor described the alleged scheme as idiotic.
“There’s no way he wouldn’t have been found out,” the neighbor said, asking to remain anonymous because he feared antagonizing neighbors.
He said a number of young men come and go from Mattier’s apartment, but did not cause trouble.
Mattier, also known by “Bentley,” is an aspiring musician with a significant online presence. His music can be found on multiple sites across the Web, including YouTube. On Twitter, where he identifies himself as “Bent” and “The Perfect Imperfection,” he has more than 10,000 followers.
Posted on what is believed to be his Instagram page are two photographs from May 7, when a One Fund meeting was held. One seems to show Mattier leafing through the fund application, and a second shows him standing with Kenneth Feinberg, the One Fund administrator. The caption reads, “Just spoke with Feinberg about what we can provide to help the city move forward in this tragedy, he loved it.”
After the allegations were announced, commenters on the photo made it clear they did not share such a sentiment.John R. Ellement of the Globe staff and correspondents Alyssa Botelho, Melissa Hanson, and Haven Orecchio-Egresitz contributed to this report. Peter Schworm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.