A Holland man has been charged with receiving benefits from the Veterans Administration and workers’ compensation under false pretenses, U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. announced.
Richard L. Klaffka, 56, was charged with making false statements, mail fraud, wire fraud and fraud. Conviction on the charges could carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, or both.
Klaffka has been receiving more than $9,000 per month in tax-free benefits from both government entities as a result of his false claims, according to the complaint.
Beginning in 2008, Klaffka told the Veterans Administration that, as a result of an injury connected with his military service in 1978, he was confined to a wheelchair and unable to engage in everyday activities such as walking, driving and dressing himself or both, according to the criminal complaint.
The defendant was already receiving benefits for the service-related injury and was appealing for a significant increase in those benefits, Hochul said.
Although his initial application for the increase was denied, after a successful appeal, the increase was granted and made retroactive, resulting in a significant lump-sum payment, according to the statement.
The criminal complaint alleges that to get workers’ compensation benefits from his employer, the U.S. Postal Service, Klaffka falsely claimed that his mobility was limited from a work injury, that he was able to walk only with the assistance of a cane and that he could not lift more than 5 pounds.
In one instance in 2013, Klaffka was observed driving to Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center and lifting a wheelchair from his vehicle by his wife, officials said.
The defendant then placed himself in the wheelchair, and his wife pushed him to the hospital, they said. After being pushed back to the vehicle, he got out of the chair without assistance, lifted the chair back into the vehicle and drove away, they said.
Klaffka was also seen playing horseshoes for hours at a time and then riding a bicycle, officials said.