Wife pushed non-disabled husband in wheelchair to net $1.2 million benefits

December 6, 2017

Richard Klaffka posed as a disabled veteran and postal worker for more than decade.

His act, which included a wheelchair he didn’t need, was good enough to reap $1.2 million in fraudulent disability benefits.

Klaffka, 59, of Holland, is now going to prison.

“It was like a way of life,” U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara said of Klaffka’s fraud. “I was amazed at the deception that was used to receive these benefits.”

For Cathleen Klaffka, his 62-year-old wife, the fraud conviction is the latest in what her lawyer called a long list of “family traumas.”

 Klaffka’s brother was Joseph Christopher, known as the 22-caliber killer who was convicted of killing several African-American men in 1980. That was about the same time the Klaffkas started dating. Christopher died of cancer while in jail in 1993.

“The trauma she experienced as a result of these events is difficult to put into words,” defense attorney Cheryl Meyers Buth said in her sentencing memo to the court.

In sentencing the Klaffkas, Arcara pointed to the amount they took in — $1.2 million — and the level of deceit they used. He sentenced Richard Klaffka to 32 months in prison and gave Cathleen Klaffka three years of probation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul E. Bonanno sought prison time for both and reminded the court of the evidence against them, including surveillance of their comings and goings at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Buffalo.

Federal agents claim they saw Richard Klaffka drive to the VA, get out of the car and then lift and open his wheelchair without help. They said his wife would then push him into the offices at the medical center.

“This crime occurred for a lengthy period of almost 10 years,” Bonanno told Arcara.


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Heart of Texas

32 months in prison? 3 years probation?
I’ll do 32 months for $1.2 million.
Life in prison for both would have been better IMHO.

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