Prosecutors: Man lied to get $9,000 a month in tax-free benefits

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HOLLAND, N.Y. (WIVB) – A man who once served his country is accused of lying to the government to obtain increased benefits from the Veterans’ Administration and Workers’ Compensation.

In 2008, Richard Klaffka of Holland requested an increase in his military benefits, claiming an injury from 1978 at the time he was in the service had left him confined to a wheelchair and unable to walk, drive or dress himself. Though the claim was initially denied, it was granted on appeal and made retroactive, giving Klaffka a significant lump sum payment.

At the same time, the U.S. Attorney’s office says the 56-year-old USPS employee claimed he had been injured on the job and applied for Workers’ Compensation, saying he could only walk with a cane and could not lift more than five pounds.

Prosecutors say they have evidence of Klaffka getting out of his wheelchair without assistance, lifting it into a car, and driving away. Authorities say he and his wife went on a cruise, engaging in a wide array of activities not consistent with his alleged injuries. And they even say they have evidence of Klaffka playing horseshoes for hours at a time and riding a bicycle.

In all, Klaffka was receiving more than $9,000 per month in tax-free benefits from both government entities. He was charged Friday with making false statements, mail fraud, wire fraud and fraud.

If convicted he faces a maximum term of 20 years in prison.

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