BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A U.S. Army veteran from Windsor Mill was arrested Thursday for allegedly fraudulently obtaining more than $1 million in Veterans and Social Security Administration benefits by falsely claiming he was a paraplegic, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.
William Rich, 41, allegedly misrepresented his physical condition in Veterans Administration disability compensation claims, in communications with the VA and during medical examinations while seeking VA disability benefits by claiming he is paralyzed and unable to walk, according to a statement from the office.READ MORE: Crisis Inside The Classroom: Baltimore County Teachers Rally, Demand Change
Rich received $800,000 in VA benefits and more than $240,000 in Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits, the statement alleges.
Rich served in the U.S. Army from September 1998 to February 2007 and was injured on Aug. 23, 2005, while serving in Baqubah, Iraq. The VA in October 2005 determined Rich was completely disabled and awarded special monthly compensation for his paraplegia, as well as allowances for a caregiver and Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits payments.
But six weeks after his injuries, Rich made substantial progress toward recovery and no longer was paralyzed, according to the statement. An MRI in August 2005 revealed no spinal cord impingement and that he could move his lower extremities.
A doctor conducting an exam in October 2007 determined Rich was paralyzed, but said he didn’t have access to Rich’s complete claims file, so he couldn’t review the earlier report. Rich then received permanent disability from the VA.READ MORE: COVID Outbreaks At Baltimore-Area Schools Raises Concerns For Parents
The VA’s Office of the Inspector General audited claims in 2018 and learned Rich’s alleged conduct was inconsistent with his purported condition, according to the statement. Special Agents for two years conducted surveillance and saw him walking, going up and down stairs, getting into and out of vehicles, lifting, bending, and carrying items – all without visible limitations or assistance of a medical device, such as a wheelchair, the statement alleges.
The affidavit further alleges the only time the agents saw Rich use a wheelchair was in connection with his medical appointments, particularly five between March 2019 and February 2021. The agents reported seeing Rich load the wheelchair into the trunk of his car before or after a VA medical appointment, using the wheelchair at the appointments or wheeling himself to his car, then loading the wheelchair into the car.
Rich’s social media accounts feature photos of him standing in front of a mirror at a gym and videos of him lifting weights, according to the statement.
The affidavit alleges he used money earmarked for “automobile and adaptive equipment” and “specially adapted housing” to buy a BMW 645ci coupe.
If Rich is convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for wire fraud and a maximum of 10 years in federal prison for theft of government property.MORE NEWS: Preventing Mass Shootings: Seizing Guns Under ‘Red Flag’ Laws From Baltimore To Buffalo