Stolen Valor in Philadelphia

While this is an extremely distasteful subject for most of us, it needs to be called out when it surfaces, unfortunately. And it happens far too often. A resident of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, on the outskirts of Philadelphia, has been exposed and indicted in a long series of incidents of stolen valor. Richard Meleski had spent years falsely claiming to have been a Navy SEAL, a prisoner of war and the recipient of high military honors. He had somehow received significant benefits from the VA owing to his “service.” But none of it was true. (CBS Philadelphia)

A Montgomery County man has been indicted for faking service as a Navy Seal and a prisoner of war to secure over $300,000 worth of health care benefits from the Veterans’ Administration, United States Attorney William McSwain announced Monday. Richard Meleski, of Chalfont, was arrested.

Authorities say the 58-year-old faked service in the military, specifically the Navy Seals, and falsely reported that he had been a prisoner of war. Meleski allegedly defrauded the VA out of $300,000 in health care benefits and received care over military service members, according to attorneys.

Meleski also allegedly filed for monetary compensation from the VA, stating that he suffered from PTSD as a result of a conflict in Beirut in which he claimed to have rescued injured servicemembers.

Even when compared to the dishonorable conduct of other frauds who engage in this behavior, Meleski’s brazen claims stand out. He didn’t just claim to have served in the SEALs in combat and been taken prisoner. He used the obituaries of actual SEALs who fell in the line of duty to claim he had served alongside them. He told everyone he had received the Silver Star and was honored for rescuing fellow SEALs on the battlefield in Beirut.

But unlike some of the other cullions who make such claims, Meleski wasn’t just trying to win admiration. He falsified a set of discharge papers and began applying for veterans’ benefits. He racked up $300,000 in health care benefits, filed a disability claim with Social Security for health issues aggravated by his “service” and claimed to be suffering from PTSD.

We haven’t had much luck prosecuting perpetrators of Stolen Valor and getting serious punishment for them, but all of those deceptions have opened the door to a string of charges that Meleski won’t be able to shrug off. In addition to Stolen Valor, prosecutors are charging him with health care fraud, mail fraud, creating fraudulent military discharge papers, and making false statements. (He previously swore under oath as to the authenticity of his military service.)

Considering that Meleski is already 58 years old, if found guilty on all charges he could very well end up spending much of the rest of his life in jail. And I doubt his lawyers will be able to find either a judge or a jury who will be very sympathetic to someone who has disgraced the memory of our warriors in this fashion.