OCALA, Fla. — A former postal worker in Florida who was collecting disability was sentenced to prison after he was caught lifting weights, officials say.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida says George Utley, 66, has been sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for receiving disability benefits from the Department of Labor Disability Benefit Payments, claiming he stole government property. Utley is expected to pay back the $732,459.46 of disability money he was given.
According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, in 2009, Utley falsely claimed he had a job-related back injury. He went on to receive workers’ compensation from the Department of Labor - Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs. He was receiving monthly payments ranging from $2,600 to $3,300 between 2011 and 2019.
The Miami Herald says during the trial, Utley posted several photos on social media from 2015 to 2019 showing him lifting weights, going for bike rides, visiting the Grand Canyon, and going fishing. Surveillance video was also obtained from his home video in 2019 where he was doing yard work and lifting things with no issue.
During a medical examination in 2017, a doctor told Utley he could return to work, according to the Miami Herald. When he was offered a job back at USPS in 2018, he refused it. It was also noted by the Miami Herald that Utley had claimed to have been in nine car accidents before 2009, for which he filed multiple lawsuits for neck and back injuries. He failed to report those hundreds of dollars of payments he received.
It was learned in 2011 during a deposition that Utley had never had a back injury and he also failed to provide sources for income and employment following an investigation by the USPS - Office of the Inspector General and Homeland Security Investigations, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida. It was proved during their investigation that Utley was never in a car accident.
“Taking taxpayer dollars to which you are not entitled is theft—period,” said HSI Orlando Assistant Special Agent in Charge David Pezzutti. “Our agents at HSI Orlando, working alongside the USPS OIG, are committed to finding those who aim to abuse programs meant to lend a helping hand and bring them to justice.”
Utley, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, pleaded guilty on February 14, 2022. The Miami Herald says he has been sentenced to two years of supervised leave following the 30 months in prison and ordered to pay back the Department of Labor $732,459.46.
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