A Pennsylvania man pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to faking a military career and stealing from the government, according to authorities.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Richard Meleski, 58, pleaded guilty to multiple offenses, including healthcare fraud, mail fraud, stolen valor, and aiding and abetting straw purchases of firearms.
Federal authorities have said Meleski managed to fraudulently receive more than $300,000 in healthcare benefits.
He was indicted on the offenses in November. Authorities said after he was charged they found he had aided and abetted in the straw purchase of two weapons, which he also pleaded guilty to.
Meleski, a convicted arsonist, submitted false forms in 2010 stating he was a Navy SEAL from 1980 until 1986, and at one point was a prisoner of war, leading to him receiving about $300,000 in health care over several years, according to authorities.
In 2018, Meleski submitted another form to the VA, claiming he had post-traumatic stress disorder from injuries during an incident in 1984, in Beirut, Lebanon, where he claimed he saved three and received a Silver Star award for the rescue.
In one form he provided obituaries of actual Navy SEALs and claimed that he served with them, the release states.
Federal authorities said Meleski was never in the military, and that he was living in New Jersey during that time period.
Authorities have also said Meleski had been convicted of arson in New Jersey four times, and he was released from prison in May 2008.
Court records state the arsons were committed by Meleski in 1985, 1986, 1988 and 2003.
Federal court records did not list a sentencing date for Meleski. A message left for Meleski’s public defender seeking comment Wednesday was not immediately returned.