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Holland couple sentenced for defrauding disability out of $1.2M

A Holland couple who stole more than $1.2 million in Veterans Affairs and workers compensation benefits have been sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Arcara.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says Richard Klaffka, 59, was sentenced to 32 months in prison, while his wife - Cathleen Klaffka, 62 - was sentenced to three years probation. Both were also ordered to pay restitution: $922,137 to the VA and $315,290 to the Department of Labor.

"Services and programs offered by federal agencies such as the VA and the Department of Labor are designed to assist those who are most in need,” said U.S. Attorney James Kennedy. “When defendants like the Klaffkas try to game the system, they victimize those who are truly deserving and in need. With today's prison sentence, Mr. Klaffka will finally be able to experience firsthand what it means to suffer a true limitation to one's mobility.” 

Authorities says it all started in 2006, when Richard Klaffka told the VA he was confined to a wheelchair due to a military-related injury. In order to get workers compensation benefits from his job with the U.S. Postal Service, he also falsely claimed a work injury resulted in having to walk with a cane.

However, authorities said the couple was well aware Richard Klaffka was able to walk without assistance and that he regularly engaged in extensive physical activities, including hiking and riding a bike.

An investigation of the claim was triggered by an anonymous call to a fraud hotline.

“The U.S. Postal Service spends nearly $3 billion per year in workers compensation costs, most of which goes to deserving postal employees with legitimate injuries suffered on the job," said U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Kenneth Cleevely. "This sentence should also serve as a deterrent to other postal employees who may be thinking of committing workers compensation fraud; you may end up behind bars and out of a job."

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