Ocala, Florida – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that George Utley (56, Oklahoma City, OK) has pleaded guilty to receiving stolen government property (Department of Labor disability benefit payments). Utley faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison. He has also agreed to a forfeiture money judgment of $732,459.46, representing the value of the stolen funds. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
According to the plea agreement, Utley is a former mail handler for the United States Postal Service (USPS). In January 2009, Utley falsely claimed a job-related back injury to receive workers’ compensation disability benefits through the Department of Labor – Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (DOL-OWCP). The monthly payments ranged from approximately $2,600 (2011) to upwards of $3,300 (2019). These payments were the product of theft because Utley failed to truthfully report his prior accidents/injuries, his other sources of income and employment, and any improvements to his purported injury.
An investigation by the USPS – Office of Inspector General (OIG) revealed that Utley had falsely testified in a 2011 DOL deposition that he had never suffered a previous back injury or been in an automobile accident. Despite Utley’s allegations of tremendous, debilitating back pain, he had only received $14 worth of prescription pain medication during the 10-year benefit period. Utley also failed to report his other sources of income and employment—he had incorporated and operated a rubbish removal business for many years and had received monthly government housing assistance payments of $1,412 as the landlord for a property in Pennsylvania. Recorded video surveillance captured Utley doing yard work at his Florida home, repeatedly lifting and carrying heavy items, working on a racecar, and hitching a flatbed car carrier, box trailer, and fifth-wheel RV to his truck. A search of Utley’s email account and Facebook postings revealed photographs of Utley’s vacations (Key West and the Grand Canyon) and extensive physical activity (weightlifting, bicycling, deep-sea fishing, etc.). Utley’s fraudulent activity resulted in him receiving $732,459.46 in disability benefit payments to which he was not entitled.
This case was investigated by the United States Postal Service – Office of the Inspector General. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert E. Bodnar, Jr.