FAIRPORT, N.Y. (WHAM) - A veteran from Fairport, New York pleaded guilty to lying about suicides he says he witnessed overseas in order to claim disability benefits and claim tens of thousands of dollars.
Michael Pecka, 33, filed a claim for VA Disability Benefits in 2011 claiming that he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from witnessing the suicide of two fellow soldiers while deployed to Kuwait in 2004-2005 with the Army Reserve.
But investigators with the Department of Veterans Affairs determined that Pecka "lied about being present for either suicide, lied about observing either suicide, lied about being involved in the investigation of either suicide, and in the case of one of the soldiers, was not even in the same country at the time he committed suicide," according to the office of U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr.
Due to the high disability rating that Pecka received because of his PTSD claims, he received more than $92,000 in tax free disability benefits that he wasn't legally entitled to.
Pecka filed the initial claim while he was an inmate in federal prison for an unrelated bank fraud conviction. Investigators said he repeated his false claims about observing the suicides on government forms in 2011 and 2014.
He faces five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, or both. Pecka is scheduled to be sentenced on January 24, 2019.