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Couple pleads guilty to defrauding VA

A Western New York couple has pleaded guilty to fraudulently receiving more than $1 million in federal government benefits. Prosecutors said Wednesday that 59-year-old Richard Klaffka pleaded guilty in federal court to wire fraud and his 62-year-old wife, Cathleen, pleaded guilty to concealing a known felon. The couple also was ordered to pay more than $1.2 million in restitution.

Prosecutors say Richard Klaffka told the Veterans Affairs that because of an injury connected to his military service he was confined to a wheelchair, even though he regularly engaged in extensive physical activities. To promote the fraud, his wife pushed him in a wheelchair when at the VA hospital.

Similarly, in order to get workers compensation benefits from his employment with the U.S. Postal Service, the U.S. Attorney's Office says Richard Klaffka falsely claimed that his mobility was limited due to a work injury and that he was only able to walk with the assistance of a cane.

The investigation was triggered by an anonymous call to a fraud hotline. Sentencing is scheduled for July. Richard Klaffka faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, while Cathleen Klaffka faces a maximum penalty of three years in prison.

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