A Maryland jury found an Army veteran guilty Tuesday for acquiring hundreds of thousands of dollars in Veterans Affairs disability benefits by falsely claiming he was paraplegic.

The jury found William Rich guilty on five counts of wire fraud and one count of theft of government property, according to a court document reviewed by Military Times.

A 2021 indictment accused Rich of faking his condition to defraud the government of more than $767,000.

This case is another instance where a veteran has faced charges for claiming paralysis, or for feigning another service-connected disability, to obtain funds from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Rich was indeed hurt when a bomb detonated inside a dining facility while he was serving in Baqubah, Iraq, in 2005, though just weeks after his injuries, he showed signs of recovery, the indictment noted.

Officials from the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General surveilled Rich over claims he misrepresented his condition, the Justice Department said. Officials said they observed him taking actions without visible limitation or need of a wheelchair, it added.

“He could’ve just told the truth,” Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Kertisha Dixon said in her closing argument, The Baltimore Banner reported. “He didn’t. And those actions bring us here today.”

Gerald Ruter, Rich’s attorney, described the former soldier as “a hero and a patriot” in an email to Military Times. The Baltimore Banner reported that he did not dispute that his client got more money than he was entitled to, but that “the issue is whether or not he committed fraud to get that award.”

Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media

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