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Elderly Army veteran charged with faking documents, medals to get nearly $500,000 in VA disability benefits

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A 65-year-old Army veteran from Bridgeport has been charged in federal court with falsifying documents in order to obtain nearly $500,000 in Veteran's Administration disability benefits and with fraudulently obtaining controlled substances from the VA.

Thomas Cueto, who served in the U.S. Army from 1969-1972 including time in Vietnam, was indicted on one count of theft of government funds and nine counts of obtaining controlled substances by fraud.

Cueto was awarded disability benefits in 1999 for service-connected post-traumatic stress disorder, U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld II said. Since 1999, he said Cueto has collected more than $480,000 in VA benefits.

The Indictment alleges Cueto falsely claimed on his Report of Discharge from the Armed Forces of the United States, also known as a DD-214, to have earned a Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star with V-Device, Purple Heart and Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. It’s also alleged that Cueto submitted a counterfeit Purple Heart certificate and other misleading documents to show he was injured in combat, Ihlenfeld said.

Cueto also is alleged to have misled VA medical personnel in order to obtain Methadone HCL and Hydrocodone, both of which are Schedule II controlled substances. He was allegedly receiving narcotics from private medical providers, but advised VA medical personnel he had not previously received the drugs from any other source.

The indictment alleges Cueto fraudulently obtained the narcotics between 2010 and 2012.

The case will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brandon S. Flower and Andrew R. Cogar.

It is being investigated by the VA Office of Inspector General.

If convicted, Cueto faces up to 10 years in prison on the theft of government funds charge and up to four years on each of the controlled substance violations. The government also is seeking a money judgment against Cueto in the amount of $480,000.