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Utah man allegedly lied about war injuries to collect benefits

Published December 6, 2013 12:48 pm

Courts • Feds contend ex-Chaffetz aide says he was injured in Iraq.
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A federal indictment alleges a West Valley City man who worked as a congressional staffer through the Wounded Warrior Project lied about being injured during deployments in Iraq as an Army reservist in order to receive disability payments.

Gilbert Prado, 49, spent 17 years as a mechanic for the Army Reserve before his first deployment to Iraq in 2005 with the 146th Transportation Company and worked as a congressional aide in 2010-2011 for Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, according to records available online.

A spokesperson for Chaffetz confirmed Friday that the office asked for a federal investigation into Prado's background after becoming concerned about his claims.

A 15-count federal indictment issued on Thursday accuses Prado of wire fraud and making false statements on disability claims filed with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The indictment filed in U.S. District Court says Prado falsely claimed he suffered a concussion, broken ribs and injuries to his hands and elbows in 2006 during a stint in Iraq when an improvised explosive device went off and tossed him into the side of a truck. He also allegedly claimed his elbows were injured breaking down doors while doing house-to-house searches in Iraq and that he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after fatally shooting two men during a convoy mission.

But prosecutors say Prado was never exposed to an improvised explosive device blast, never engaged in combat activity during a convoy mission and never participated in door-to-door searches while in Iraq.

In March 2009, Prado allegedly submitted a disability claim for traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The department denied the brain injury claim, but determined Prado was eligible for a disability rating of 10 percent based on PTSD.

Over the next two years, Prado allegedly submitted more claims for injuries to his brain, elbows and hands and then filed appeals when the claims were denied. In March 2011, he allegedly sought an increased disability rating based on PTSD and the department raised his rating from 10 percent to 70 percent, resulting in an increase in his disability payments.

In all, the indictment alleges Prado received about $18,000 in unwarranted disability payments between August 2011 and March 2012.

Last year, Chaffetz urged the Pentagon to create an online database of veterans. He said he had been misled by two people — including Prado — who misrepresented their military service. The Utah congressman's proposal received support from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who said such a database would help streamline access to health care, disability benefits and other services. But military officials said such a database was not needed.


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