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November 26, 2019

Chalfont man allegedly faked Navy SEAL career to steal VA benefits

Richard Meleski claimed to have served in Beirut; feds say details of his combat stories were gleaned from the obituaries of servicemen who had died

Investigations Stolen Valor

Richard Meleski, 58, of Chalfont, allegedly fabricated a past military career as a Navy SEAL and prisoner of war who returned to civilian life with PTSD, according to federal prosecutors. Meleski obtained more than $300,000 in VA healthcare and other benefits.

A Chalfont, Bucks County, man was indicted this week on charges that he faked a military career as a Navy SEAL, obtaining more than $300,000 in healthcare benefits from the Veterans' Administration, federal prosecutors said. 

Richard Meleski, 58, faces charges of healthcare fraud, mail fraud, stolen valor, creating fraudulent military discharge papers and making false statements in connection with the alleged scheme. 

Investigators allege Meleski falsely represented himself as a prisoner of war who suffered from PTSD, classifications that put him in the VA's Priority Group 3 ahead of deserving military service members. 

Specifically, authorities said Meleski claimed his PTSD stemmed from armed conflict in Beirut, where he said he rescued injured SEAL teammates. 

In an application for disability benefits, Meleski allegedly said he was awarded the Silver Star. To give his story credibility, he included details from the obituaries of actual Navy SEALs he claimed to have fought alongside, prosecutors said. 

Additionally, Meleski falsely testified under oath while attempting to obtain disability benefits from the Social Security Administration, according to the indictment. 

“These allegations are truly shocking and a huge insult to anybody who has worn our country’s uniform," U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain said. "If proven, Meleski deserves to face the consequences under the law."

Meleski faces a maximum possible sentence of 68 years imprisonment, 3 years supervised release, a $2,250,000 fine, a $900 special assessment, and restitution of $302,121.21.