On five occasions, investigators saw him allegedly loading a wheelchair into the trunk of his car before and after medical appointments.
Federal prosecutors alleged Thursday that an Army veteran received more than $1 million in disability and Social Security benefits, falsely claiming he was paralyzed.
The Justice Department said William Rich, 41, of Windsor Mill, Maryland, lied about his condition to the Department of Veterans Affairs for several years. As a result, he was given a 100% disability rating in 2007 due to “loss of use of both lower extremities,” officials said.
Court documents said Rich also received special monthly compensation for paraplegia and allowances for a caregiver and Social Security Administration disability insurance payments. In addition to monthly benefits, Rich received grants from the VA for “automobiles and adaptive equipment” and “specially adapted housing.”
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Officials said that instead of using the money to buy a specially customized vehicle, they bought a BMW 645ci luxury sports coupe, which was eventually completed.
Rich served in the military from September 1998 to February 2007 and was wounded on 23 August 2005 while stationed in Bakuba, Iraq.
The Justice Department said that weeks after the injury, he began to make progress on his recovery and was no longer paralyzed. An October 2005 physical examination showed that there was no damage to his spinal cord and noted that his “paralysis has resolved somewhat and he is currently able to move his lower extremities”. According to court documents.
A subsequent medical examination report on December 5, 2006 stated that Rich was able to perform certain daily activities with “complete independence” or “modified independence”.
However, during a VA pension and compensation exam conducted on October 11, 2007, the doctor wrote that Rich “is paralyzed in both lower extremities, confined to a wheelchair.” The doctor did not review Rich’s previous medical files and ordered X-rays.
The VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) began investigating their claims in 2018. Agents monitored Rich over two years, during which they saw him walk up and down stairs, lift, bend and exit vehicles without limitation, prosecutors said.
Court documents state that they only saw her using a wheelchair during VA medical appointments. On five occasions between March 2019 and February, he reportedly saw her loading a wheelchair into the trunk of his car before and after medical visits.
“A dig at his social media accounts showed Rich standing,” prosecutors said, including a selfie from Jim, which he posted on Instagram with the caption: “Lol lift or leave.”
“Through my training and experience I know that fraudsters often document their fraudulent robbery through photographs captured on their phones and other camera-equipped electronic devices and store them on those and other electronic devices. Let’s do it,” wrote a VA special agent in the court filing.
The agent noted that, after looking at Rich’s social media accounts, Rich was likely to have “an extensive gym” with exercise equipment inside his home, which someone claiming to be paralyzed would not be able to. Will happen.
Rich is charged with wire fraud and theft of government property and faces 30 years in prison. On Wednesday, a federal judge released him from pending trial.
He has been appointed a public defender, who did not return a request for comment.