GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan veteran has been sentenced to five years in prison after investigators who followed him discovered he had faked injuries that allowed him to claim more than $260,000 in federal benefits.
Joseph Gray, 53, of Lawton repeatedly claimed he had lost the use of his legs and left hand in order to obtain the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, prosecutors said. But government investigators saw him walking, using his left hand and even carrying a heavy bag on his shoulder.
Acquaintances also told investigators they had not seen Gray in a wheelchair except for his VA appointments.
Prosecutors said Gray received benefits intended for veterans who cannot work or care for themselves, even at home, because of service-related disabilities.
A federal jury convicted Gray in April of conspiracy to defraud the government, making a false statement to the VA, theft of government funds and making a false, fictitious or fraudulent claim.
A judge who sentenced Gray on Wednesday to a five-year prison term also ordered him to pay $264,631.51 in restitution for losses dating to 2004, the Kalamazoo Gazette reported.
Gray's wife, Paula Gray, 53, said she could not work because she had to care for her husband. She was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the government and other charges, and was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to pay the same restitution.
Joseph Gray’s attorney, Scott Graham, said Gray earned military decorations during the Gulf War and “sustained life-changing injuries,” including injuries to his shoulders from a fall in Saudi Arabia.