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Press Release

More Than $319,000 Recovered in Disability Fraud Case

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Missouri

ST. LOUIS – The U.S. Attorney’s Office has successfully recovered more than $319,000 in disability payments that a Columbia, Illinois man illegally obtained via disability fraud, U.S. Attorney Sayler A. Fleming announced Wednesday.

Gregory Vieth pleaded guilty in 2019 to one felony count of conspiracy to defraud the United States.  He admitted paying a chiropractor to help him fraudulently qualify for monthly Social Security disability payments and a $100,000 long-term disability payment.  At the direction of the chiropractor, Vieth underwent medically unnecessary tests to bolster his application for disability benefits.  Vieth also falsely claimed on the application that he was unable to complete yardwork, lift, walk, reach, sit, bend and bathe without assistance, his plea agreement says.

On February 21, 2023, U.S. District Judge Ronnie L. White sentenced the 67-year-old to three years of probation and ordered him to pay $319,687 in restitution with required monthly installment payments of at least $500.  By mid-April, Vieth had only made the minimum restitution payments to his victims, so the Financial Litigation Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office began enforcing the judgment by garnishing Vieth’s retirement account held at Fidelity Investments, which contained approximately $450,000.  Vieth then attempted to block the collection action by arguing the minimum monthly payments precluded the government’s garnishment.  Vieth also argued the garnishment should be limited to only 25% of the funds in his retirement account, and the garnishment would cause him to incur a large income tax liability, thereby essentially wiping out his life savings.

Judge White disagreed with all of Vieth’s arguments, saying the court-ordered obligation to make minimum monthly installment payments did not bar the U.S. Attorney’s Office from initiating the garnishment, as the restitution was ordered due in full immediately at the time of sentencing.  Judge White also ruled the garnishment was not capped at 25% and potential tax liability was not a valid defense.  Judge White said Vieth had the assets to pay restitution, and “the public and private victims have a right to receive those funds now.”  The U.S. Attorney’s office recently collected the full amount of the outstanding restitution owed to the victims in this case.

“This case demonstrates that our Financial Litigation Unit will aggressively pursue and seize the assets of criminals to make their victims whole,” U.S. Attorney Fleming said. “In this case, Gregory Vieth falsely claimed he was unable to perform the basic functions of life in order to obtain disability payments that eventually totaled $319,687.  In reality, he was able to do all of those things, including travel internationally. After pleading guilty, he fought to hold on to hundreds of thousands of dollars in a retirement account instead of immediately paying the restitution he owed to his victims.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Debre prosecuted the financial recovery and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tracy Berry and Dorothy McMurtry prosecuted the criminal charges against Vieth, as well as the chiropractor and others linked to him. The Social Security Administration – Office of Inspector General and the FBI investigated the criminal case.

Updated September 7, 2023

Financial Fraud