Ex-congressional staffer accused of lying for VA benefits

Ex-congressional staffer accused of lying for VA benefits

(Emily Ellsworth)

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SALT LAKE CITY — A man who worked for a Utah congressman through the Wounded Warrior Project faces criminal fraud charges for allegedly lying about being injured in the Iraq war to collect disability benefits.

Prosecutors filed a 15-count indictment Thursday against Gilbert Thomas Prado, of West Valley City, for wire fraud and making false statements. The eight wire fraud counts correspond to monthly disability payments he received from August 2011 to March 2012 totaling $18,000, according to the indictment.

Prado "falsely represented" to Veterans Affairs that he was injured during combat in Iraq in 2006, prosecutors allege. The indictment doesn't question that Prado served in the military.

Prado has talked about his military service in several Utah newspapers, including the Deseret News three years ago when he worked in a field office for Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.

Prado was interviewed in March 2005 as he prepared for 545-day tour of duty in the Middle East as an Army Reserve staff sergeant with the 146th Transportation Company. The Ogden Standard-Examiner story said he worked as a mechanic in the Army Reserve for 17 years.

According to the indictment, Prado claimed during evaluations for VA benefits that an improvised explosive device exploded 40 feet from him and threw him into the side of a truck. He said he suffered a concussion and broken ribs as well as blurry vision, headaches and short-term memory loss.

Prado, 49, also told the VA that during a convoy mission he shot at an approaching vehicle and killed two men, and that he had recurring nightmares about the shooting, according to the indictment. He said everyday activities such as work and driving caused him to remember the explosion and the shootings.

He also said he injured his elbows breaking down doors during house-to-house searches.

None of those stories is true, according to the indictment.

In March 2009, Prado claimed the VA deemed Prado 10 percent disabled due to post-traumatic stress disorder and provided him with monthly disability benefits. In February 2010, he made a claim to increase his disability rating due to traumatic brain injury and injuries to his elbows. The VA denied it.

The VA granted another request for an increase in March 2011 due to PTSD, raising Prado's disability rating to 70 percent. His monthly benefits increased and caused an "overpayment" each month, according to the indictment.

Prado got a job in a field office for Chaffetz through the Wounded Warrior Project for the U.S. House of Representatives, according to a July 2010 Deseret News story. He qualified for the two-year paid position because he suffered significant injuries to his back and arm while on patrol in Iraq, the story said.

Prado worked in constituent services in the congressman's Provo office, according to a 2011 directory of congressional office staffs.

Chaffetz said he couldn't say much because it's a personnel matter, but at some point his office became concerned about the authenticity of Prado's story.

"We did refer the case to federal authorities," the congressman said.


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Dennis Romboy


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