Army veteran faked paralysis to get over $  1M in benefits, used money to buy sports car, prosecutors say

William Rich, 41, of Windsor Mill, Maryland, lied about his condition to the Department of Veterans Affairs over several years, the Justice Department said. As a result, he was granted a 100% disability rating in 2007 due to the “loss of use of both lower extremities,” authorities said.

Rich also received special monthly compensation for paraplegia and was given allowances for a caregiver and Social Security Administration disability insurance payments, court documents said. In addition to the monthly benefits, Rich received grants from the VA for “automobile and adaptive equipment” and “specially adapted housing.”

95-YEAR-OLD WWII VETERAN GETS BUMPED UP CORVETTE STINGRAY WAITING LIST

William Rich, 41, is seen taking a selfie at a gym. He is charged with falsely claiming to be a paraplegic and receiving more than $  1 million in compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

William Rich, 41, is seen taking a selfie at a gym. He is charged with falsely claiming to be a paraplegic and receiving more than $ 1 million in compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs.  (Justice Department )

Instead of using the funds to purchase a specially adapted vehicle, he bought a BMW 645ci luxury sports coupe, which was eventually totaled, officials said. 

Rich served in the Army from September 1998 to February 2007 and was injured on Aug. 23, 2005 while deployed to Baqubah, Iraq. 

Weeks after the injury, he began to make progress toward recovery and was no longer paralyzed, the Justice Department said. An October 2005 physical exam revealed he had no damage to his spinal cord and it was noted that his “paralysis has resolved somewhat and at present he is able to move his lower extremities,” according to court documents. 

The exterior of the Veterans Affairs Hospital is seen November 10, 2003 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The exterior of the Veterans Affairs Hospital is seen November 10, 2003 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images) (2003 Getty Images)

A subsequent medical exam report on Dec. 5, 2006 said Rich was able to perform certain daily activities with “complete independence” or “modified independence.” 

However, during a VA pension and compensation exam conducted on Oct. 11, 2007, the doctor wrote that Rich “has been paralyzed in both lower extremities; has been confined to a wheelchair.” The physician did not review Rich’s earlier medical files and did not order an X-ray. 

The VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) launched an investigation into his claims in 2018. Agents conducted surveillance of Rich over two years, during which they saw him walking up and down stairs, lifting, bending and exiting vehicles with no appearance of limitations, prosecutors said. 

They saw him only use a wheelchair during VA medical appointments, court documents said. On five occasions between March 2019 and February, they allegedly witnessed him loading a wheelchair into the trunk of his car before and after the medical visits. 

A dig into his social media accounts showed Rich standing, including a selfie from a gym he posted to Instagram with the caption: “Lol lift or leave,” prosecutors said. 

William Rich

William Rich (Justice Department )

“Through my training and experience I know that individuals who commit fraud often document the spoils of their frauds through photographs captured on their phones and other camera-equipped electronic devices and store them on those and other electronic devices,” a VA special agent wrote in court filings. 

The agent noted that, after viewing Rich’s social media accounts, Rich was likely to have “an extensive gym” inside his home with exercise equipment that someone claiming to be paralyzed would not be able to use.

Rich is charged with wire fraud and theft of government property and faces 30 years in prison. On Wednesday, a federal judge released him pending trial. 

He has been assigned a public defender, who did not return a request for comment. 

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