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PA man accused of faking record as Navy SEAL, POW to steal $300K in benefits

The Department of Veterans Affairs Building. (JeffOnWire/Flickr)

A 58-year-old Bucks County man was indicted for falsely claiming he was a Navy SEAL and prisoner of war — he never served a day in the military — in order to steal more than $300,000 in government benefits, U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain announced Monday.

Richard Meleski of Chalfont was arrested and charged in federal court with health-care fraud, mail fraud, stolen valor, and related offenses in connection with his alleged scheme to obtain health-care benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs and disability benefits from the Social Security Administration.

“18 hr hostile takeover. Became POW, during this tour. Beaten, shot, head injury, tortured. Hospitalized in Germany for injuries sustained. Crushed hand. Shrapnel,” Meleski wrote, claiming he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of serving as a Navy SEAL in Beirut during the 1980s, according to the indictment.

Meleski claimed he injured his left knee jumping out of a window carrying a dead SEAL on his back, prosecutors allege.

He claimed that he suffered a traumatic brain injury when he jumped through the window and that he “was unable to speak for three months,” the indictment says. He allegedly claimed he was awarded the Silver Star for his actions.

In reality, Meleski “never served in the United States military” and was “in the state of New Jersey, not Beirut, at the time of his claimed incidents,” according to the indictment.

Because of his false claims, Meleski was given priority over actual veterans and received “completely free health care with no copays or premiums,” prosecutors said.

Meleski fraudulently obtained $299,849.31 in health care and $2,271.90 in prescription medications from the VA from 2010 until this year, prosecutors allege.

From 2016 until last year, he claimed that he was unable to work and used the same phony record to obtain disability benefits from Social Security, the indictment allege.

Meleski’s claim was initially denied, but he appealed and falsely testified at a hearing about his record. An administrative law judge sided with him, prosecutors said. He then received an unspecified amount of disability payments.

If convicted on all counts, Meleski would face 68 years in prison, $302,121.21 in restitution, and a $2,250,000 fine.


© 2019 The Philadelphia Inquirer