A Pennsylvania man pleaded guilty Wednesday to pretending to be a prisoner of war and a Navy SEAL to claim Veterans Administration benefits, the U.S. Justice Department said in a release.
Richard Meleski, 58, of Chalfont, pleaded guilty to several other charges as well, including healthcare fraud, mail fraud and aiding and abetting firearm straw purchases, the Justice Department said.
His public defender did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
All told, Meleski’s false claims netted him $300,000 in healthcare benefits from the VA, according to the department.
By claiming to be a POW, Meleski was able to jump the line and receive healthcare “before other deserving military service members,” the department said. “In reality, Meleski never served a single day in the United States Military.”
Meleski also sought VA compensation for post-traumatic stress “he supposedly suffered during an armed conflict in Beirut in which he rescued injured service members,” according to the department.
He falsely claimed he had received the Silver Star for SEAL heroism in his disability benefit application as well.
“Meleski also submitted another application to the VA for monetary compensation in which he included obituaries of actual Navy SEALs alongside whom he supposedly served,” the department said. “In short, he traded on the actions of true heroes in an attempt to bolster his false application for monetary benefits.”
Meleski also pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the straw purchase of two firearms, as well as for claiming Social Security Administration benefits for injuries he claimed to suffer while in the military, according to the department.
“Meleski faked a record as a decorate U.S. Navy SEAL in order to steal numerous forms of compensation,” U.S. Attorney William McSwain said in a statement. “Everything about this case is profoundly offensive.”
A sentencing date has not been set.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.