Jet Ski-Riding Personal Trainer Stole $1.5 Million In Disability Claims

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A veteran who claimed he couldn’t move his hands or feet while secretly working as a personal trainer who regularly rode his jet ski and motorcycle is going to prison for stealing more than $1.5 million in disability benefits.

A South Carolina jury convicted 45-year-old Dennis Paulsen Tuesday of one of the largest one-man disability fraud schemes in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) history after he “substantially feigned and exaggerated” his multiple sclerosis condition for two decades, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). Paulsen faces up to 20 years in prison, fines up to $500,000 and restitution of the $1.5 million he stole.

He was diagnosed with MS and discharged from the Navy in the early 1990s, and began receiving a monthly VA benefit. “Unsatisfied with the amount he was receiving,” Paulsen began claiming his hands and feet were useless, the DOJ said.

Still unsatisfied, Paulsen lied to his doctors again, saying he needed live-in medical care, which triggered maximum VA benefits. Paulsen also tricked the Social Security Administration into giving him benefits.

Paulsen, however, lived in a non-handicap-accessible home in Virginia where he rode his motorcycle and jet ski, and played baseball and golf “on a regular basis,” according to the DOJ. He even met his now-ex-wife in 1999 at the gym where he exercised and trained others.

In 2004, Paulsen and his wife sold their 5,000-square-foot Virginia home for $500,000 and moved to Blythewood, S.C. There, they purchased another two-story, non-handicap-accessible home, and he stopped going to neurologists for his MS.

The veteran joined “several” gyms, played in a baseball league for eight years, and swam in his backyard pool, according to DOJ.

He also regularly drove his Cadillac Escalade and MINI Cooper — new Escalades currently sell for about $73,000, and new MINI Coopers sell for about $21,000.

[dcquiz] When Paulsen learned a “concerned citizen” reported his active lifestyle to the VA in 2014, he immediately quit his baseball league and began showing up to the VA in his wheelchair.

Paulsen’s ex-wife — the DOJ doesn’t say when they divorced — produced photos of Paulsen playing baseball and participating in the Marine Mud Run. Paulsen testified from a wheelchair for four hours in court.

“The guilty verdict reflects that the jury did not find this testimony credible,” the DOJ said.

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