Bucks County Man Pleads Guilty to Faking a Military Career as a Navy SEAL, Stealing from the Government, and Straw Purchasing Firearms
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Richard Meleski, 58, of Chalfont, PA, pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including healthcare fraud, mail fraud, stolen valor, and aiding and abetting straw purchases of firearms.
In November 2019, Meleski was charged by Indictment for his scheme to defraud the government of hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits. To perpetrate the scheme, Meleski faked serving in the U.S. military, specifically the Navy SEALs, and falsely represented that he had been a Prisoner of War, in order to secure healthcare benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA) worth over $300,000. Due to his false representation as a POW, the defendant received healthcare from the VA in Priority Group 3, effectively receiving healthcare before other deserving military service members. In reality, Meleski never served a single day in the United States military.
Meleski also filed for monetary compensation from the VA for PTSD he supposedly suffered during an armed conflict in Beirut in which he rescued injured service members. In his application for disability benefits for PTSD, Meleski falsely represented that he had been awarded the Silver Star for heroic actions during his time as a Navy SEAL. Again, Meleski never served a single day in the United States military and of course was never awarded any service medals. Meleski also submitted another application to the VA for monetary compensation in which he included obituaries of actual Navy SEALs alongside whom he had supposedly served. In short, he traded on the actions of true heroes in an attempt to bolster his false application for monetary benefits.
The defendant also filed for disability benefits from The United States Social Security Administration (SSA) for injuries he claimed to have received during his time in the service. Meleski falsely testified under oath in connection with an SSA Disability proceeding.
After being arrested for fraud, it was discovered that the defendant had also engaged in aiding and abetting the straw purchase of two separate firearms; he also pleaded guilty to this conduct.
“Meleski faked a record as a decorated U.S. Navy SEAL in order to steal numerous forms of compensation,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Everything about this case is profoundly offensive. Our veterans fought for the freedoms we hold dear, and we owe them a debt that we can never fully repay. But holding individuals like Meleski accountable for their crimes is one small way that we can honor our veterans’ service.”
“This guilty plea is a warning to those who make false statements in applying for Social Security disability benefits,” said Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General of Social Security. "I want to recognize the efforts of the VA OIG and ATF in investigating this case, and the United States Attorney’s Office for bringing these charges.”
The case was investigated by Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General, Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. It is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Megan Curran.