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Press Release

Former Rochester couple arrested, charged with defrauding VA out of hundreds of thousands of dollars

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of New York

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross announced today that Michael Joyce, 52, and his wife Sarah Shultis, 32, both formerly of Rochester, NY, now living in New Jersey, were arrested and charged by criminal complaint with theft of government funds, making false statements, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and conspiracy to defraud the United States. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas M. Testani, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, in April 2016, defendant Joyce submitted claims for disability compensation to the Department of Veterans Affairs for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), an issue with his left hand, asthma, anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, panic disorder, sleep apnea, GER, hypertension, tinnitus, gout, an unidentified left knee issue, an unidentified left ankle issue, an unidentified right ankle issue, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and unidentified cardiac issues. Following multiple consultations and examinations for various issues, Joyce was awarded a 100% disability rating for reported PTSD in December 2016. In February 2018, Joyce applied for a status of permanent and total disability (PTD), which removes an individual’s obligation to continue getting re-evaluated for various disabilities, and makes them eligible for other veteran benefits. In his Statement in Support of Claim, Joyce asserted, “Every disability that I have either is the same but will not get better or has gotten worse.” He stated that his PTSD has not improved, that he is more housebound, and feels that he will die if he goes outside. Joyce was subsequently granted a PTD status in April 2018.

In July 2019, Joyce submitted a Declaration of Status of Dependents, listing himself as married and living with his wife and seven additional dependent children, raising his payment for a 100% disabled veteran from $3,171.12 per month, to $3,860.55 per month. Joyce continues to receive VA disability compensation and special monthly compensation in the amount of $4,737.42 per month. He has received over $393,158.14 in payments from VA as of March 2024. In November 2017, Joyce and Shultis applied for Shultis, as Joyce’s purposed caregiver, to receive payments through the VA Caregiver Support Program (CSP), claiming that Joyce is wholly reliant on Shultis for multiple life tasks, including feeding, bathing, and dressing. Shultis was approved and received a retroactive payment of $8,345.82, and began to receive $2,890.14 per month for the care of Joyce. As of March 2024, Shultis has received over $213,000.

A review of Joyce’s Army personnel file and during interviews with former members of Joyce’s unit, investigators found multiple inconsistencies in Joyce’s claims. Unit members described Joyce as competent, intelligent, and physically fit, someone who remodeled multiple bathrooms and repaired a roof, and was never deployed to a combat zone. Subsequent investigation and surveillance documented, on multiple occasions,  Joyce walking with no apparent difficulty or assistance, driving a motor vehicle, and performing household maintenance tasks, including climbing a ladder and snow shoveling.

The complaint is the result of an investigation by the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Bradley Parker, and the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Christopher F. Algieri, Northeast Field Office.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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Barbara Burns


Updated June 4, 2024

Financial Fraud