‘Paraplegic’ army vet, 41, accused of ‘scamming more than $1m in benefits by pretending to be crippled’ is caught out by gym selfie
William Rich, 41, has been accused of obtaining $1million after pretending to be paraplegic following a bomb blast in Iraq in 2005
He reportedly was given $800,000 from the VA, in addition to $240,000 from social security and disability
Awarded a monthly compensation for paraplegia and grants for adaptive vehicles and housing, instead Rich allegedly used the benefits to purchase a luxury BMW sports coupe y
Rich served in the military from 1998 to 2007 and was deployed in Baqubah when he sustain a bomb blast injury
His medical reports from 2005 and 2006 reported that he was not paralyzed and could do daily activities without assistance He posted
The disabled vet was caught doing daily activities without assistance, only using a wheelchair during VA medical appointments, and uploading gym selfies to his public social media accounts,
Over two years, special agents conducting surveillance, allegedly observed Rich ‘walking, going up and down stairs, entering and exiting vehicles, lifting, bending, and carrying items’ without assistance or a wheelchair
In 2007, he was granted full disability by a doctor who did not order x-ray or review his full medical report
Rich faces a maximum of 30 years in prison for wire fraud and theft of government property
An army veteran from the Baltimore suburbs is accused of obtaining more than $1million in benefits by pretending to be paraplegic after being caught posting gym selfies and being seen walking around without assistance by investigators.
William Rich, 41, of Windsor Mill in Maryland, is being accused of faking paraplegia since 2007 after sustaining an injury after a bomb blast in Iraq in 2005, according to court documents that were unsealed last month.
Rich, who served in the military from 1998 to 2007, was injured on August 23, 2005 while serving in Baqubah.
By 2007, the VA rated Rich one hundred per cent disabled due to ‘loss of the use of both lower extremities’ without ordering x-rays and reviewing previous medical documents.
After he was caught doing daily activities without assistance, only using a wheelchair during VA medical appointments, and uploading gym selfies to his public social media accounts, including one with the caption ‘lol lift or leave’ after the VA Inspector General’s Office launched an investigation in 2018.
The army veteran allegedly received $800,000 in VA benefits and an additional $240,000 in social security and disability, the District of Maryland’s Attorney’s Office said.
He was also awarded a monthly compensation for paraplegia and received grants for adaptive vehicles and housing. Instead, Rich allegedly used benefits to purchase a luxury BMW sports coupe.
The two-door car ‘is not readily adaptable to the use of a paraplegic person,’ special agent Brian Maddox of the VA IG office said in the affidavit.
Rich later totaled the car, but investigators inspected his other vehicles and his home and did not find it to be equipped with modifications for a paraplegic, according to Stars and Stripes.
Over two years, special agents conducted surveillance and allegedly observed Rich ‘walking, going up and down stairs, entering and exiting vehicles, lifting, bending, and carrying items’ without assistance or a wheelchair, court documents stated.
Agents reported the only time they observed Rich in a wheelchair was during VA medical appointment and saw on five occasions the 41-year-old loading his wheelchair into his car before or after his appointments between March 2019 and February 2021.
He was caught posting photos and videos of himself at the gym on his public social media accounts as well.
The criminal complaint alleged that Rich had made ‘substantial progress toward recovery’ around the six-week mark after sustaining his injuries in 2005 and was ‘no longer paralyzed,’ court documents stated.
His medical report dated October 7, 2005, revealed that an MRI on August 24, 2005 – the day after his injury – that Rich had ‘no [spinal] cord impingement’ or ‘[spinal] cord abnormalities’ and that his ‘paralysis has resolved somewhat and at present he is able to move his lower extremities.’
Over a year later, in December 2006, his report indicated he could perform daily tasks with ‘complete independence’ or ‘modified independence,’ such as using the restroom.
Two years after the incident, in October 2007, his medical report suddenly stated he was ‘paralyzed in both lower extremities’ and was ‘confined to a wheelchair.’
The physician who documented the report noted he did not order an x-ray and did not review Rich’s medical history before the exam due to not his inability to access the veteran’s compete file.
The doctor also stated that he did not order an x-ray because he ‘did not feel that it was worth the trauma to him of manipulating [Rich] around.’
The amount of disability coverage a veteran receives is equivalent to their service-connected disability rating. Soldiers receive their rating through the VA and it is based on the ‘severity’ of an individual’s service disability and how much it ‘decreases overall health and ability to function.’
Rich faces a maximum of 30 years in prison for wire fraud and theft of government property.
He was granted release pending trial on October 13, 2021 following an appearance in the US District Court in Baltimore.
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