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Army vet sentenced to prison for falsely claiming he can't walk

Retired Master Sgt. Mack Cole Jr. was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison for health care fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas announced Thursday.

Cole, 54, told his doctors at the Veterans Affairs Department that he couldn’t walk. But he was convicted in June after video recordings showed him mowing his lawn and walking around his driveway without the assistance of a wheelchair, the Justice Department said in a statement.

A federal jury convicted Cole of four counts of health care fraud and two counts of making false statements in a matter involving a health care benefit program, according to the Justice Department.

In addition to the prison term, Cole has been ordered by the court to pay more than $375,000 in restitution to the Veterans Benefits Administration, as well as almost $60,000 to the Veterans Health Administration. Cole will also be placed on supervised release for three years following his prison sentence.

Cole was deployed with the Kansas Army National Guard to Kosovo in 2004. Prior to his deployment, he injured his back during a training operation, according to the Justice Department. In 2006, he retired from the military and began receiving monthly benefits as a disabled veteran.

The jury in the case found that Cole had exaggerated his service-connected injuries to receive higher benefits, the Justice Department said.

Special agents from the Department of Veterans Affairs conducted the investigation, recorded the video surveillance and brought the evidence to the courts, the Justice Department said.

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