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Veteran sentenced for benefit fraud

Associated Press / April 24, 2010

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EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. — A US Army veteran who prosecutors say bilked the government by faking paralysis to get disability benefits and to avoid being deployed to Iraq was sentenced yesterday to 6 1/2 years in prison and ordered to repay more than $300,000.

Jeffrey Rush, 27, apologized, tearfully at times, to US District Judge William Stiehl, who handed down the prison term prosecutors had requested.

“I hope you will use the time in prison to learn to conduct yourself in an honest way once you are out,’’ Stiehl, 84, told Rush.

Rush asked for leniency for his former wife, who has pleaded guilty in the scheme and is scheduled to be sentenced Monday.

Authorities say the Rushes stuck to his bogus story that he had lost the use of his legs after a 2004 rollover crash, just weeks before his Army company from Kansas shipped off to Iraq without him.

As part of the scheme, court records show, Rush received $107,857 in benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs and $28,730 from the Social Security Administration.

Court documents and discussions offered no details on how Rush perpetrated the scheme.

The scam unraveled after the Rushes in 2005 sued Ford and the maker of the seat belts used in Rush’s sport utility vehicle, blaming both firms for his purported paralysis and his wife’s resulting “loss of consortium and conjugal relations.’’ The Rushes had a child in July 2006.