A Maryland Army veteran could face up to 30 years in prison after, prosecutors said, he made a false claim in 2007 to the Department of Veterans Affairs that he is a paraplegic.
On Tuesday, the Justice Department stated that 41-year-old William Rich faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison for wire fraud and a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison for theft of government property if convicted of all crimes.
According to the Justice Department, Rich, who lives in Windsor Mill, Maryland, was given 100 percent disability from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 2007 due to him fraudulently claiming that he was disabled and couldn’t use his “lower extremities,” according to court documents. After the claim was approved, Rich received more than $1 million in benefits and compensation for personal use.
In addition to the disability compensation, Rich also collected grants from the VA for “Automobile and Adaptive Equipment” and “Specially Adapted Housing.” Rich allegedly used funds intended to purchase a vehicle suited for individuals with disabilities and bought a BMW 645ci luxury sports coupe.
Rich served in the U.S. Army from September 22, 1998, to February 27, 2007. He was injured August 30, 2005, while on active duty in Baqubah, Iraq, according to a press release from the DOJ. Six weeks after Rich’s injuries, he recovered and wasn’t paralyzed anymore, according to court documents.
The Military Times obtained a report from Rich’s Oct. 7, 2005, annual physical examination, which states that an August 2005 MRI revealed that there were “no [spinal] cord impingement” or “[spinal] cord abnormalities.” The exam report also stated that Rich’s “… paralysis has resolved somewhat, and at present, he is able to move his lower extremities.”
Another report revealed that Rich was capable of performing daily essential activities with “complete independence” or “modified independence,” such as using the bathroom, and “locomotion.”
A number of Rich’s social media accounts showed him standing, indicating that he didn’t need a wheelchair for daily activities. Law enforcement also discovered videos of Rich lifting weights along with a photo he took of himself standing in front of a gym mirror.
Rich has already been charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of theft of government property. On October 13, he was scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Baltimore and ordered to be released pending trial.
Rich has been assigned a federal public defender to serve as counsel.
Newsweek has reached out to the U.S. Army for further comments.