William Rich, 41, of Windsor Mill, Maryland, lied about his condition to the Department of Veterans Affairs over several years, la Departamento de Justicia dicho. Como resultado, he was granted a 100% disability rating in 2007 due to the “loss of use of both lower extremities,” las autoridades dijeron.
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” y “specially adapted housing.”
Instead of using the funds to purchase a specially adapted vehicle, he bought a BMW 645ci luxury sports coupe, which was eventually totaled, los funcionarios dijeron.
Rich served in the Army from September 1998 to February 2007 and was injured on Aug. 23, 2005 while deployed to Baqubah, Irak.
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,” según documentos judiciales.
A subsequent medical exam report on Dec. 5, 2006 said Rich was able to perform certain daily activities with “complete independence” o “modified independence.”
sin embargo, 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, levantamiento, bending and exiting vehicles with no appearance of limitations, los fiscales dijeron.
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,” los fiscales dijeron.
“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 años en prisión. El miércoles, a federal judge released him pending trial.
He has been assigned a public defender, who did not return a request for comment.