When George Utley was a postal worker in Florida, he claimed in 2008 that he had hurt his back while on the job. He applied for and disability received payments for about 10 years.
But during that time, insurance investigators tracked him traveling, deep-sea fishing and weightlifting despite his claims of a debilitating injury. They also recorded video of him “doing yard work at his Florida home; repeatedly lifting and carrying heavy items; working on a race car; and hitching a flatbed car carrier, box trailer, and fifth-wheel RV to his truck,” according to a news release from the US Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida (USAO).
Now, of all his pastimes, Utley’s only going to be able to lift weights — while in prison.
According to a statement from the USAO, Utley is going to jail for two and a half years for defrauding the Department of Labor of benefit payments to the tune of $732,459.46. He must also make full restitution of the funds, and once out of prison, will be on two years’ supervised release, the Miami Herald reports.
Between January 2009 and March 2019, the 56-year-old Army veteran received payments ranging from approximately $2,600 a month in 2011 to upwards of $3,300 in 2019.
Utley got his first benefit check in January 2009. He had reported spraining his back after standing up in the break room at a Pennsylvania United States Postal Service facility, court documents show.
The Herald reports that Utley testified he had no prior back injuries before the 2009 incident. But court documents show that he had been in at least nine car accidents before 2009, for which he filed several lawsuits over neck and back injuries.
“Utley failed to truthfully report his prior accidents/injuries, his other sources of income and employment, and any improvements to his purported injury,” the Attorney General’s statement says. “Utley had falsely tested in a 2011 DOL deposition that he never had suffered a previous back injury or been in an automobile accident.”
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He also failed to report more than $100,000 worth of insurance settlement payments he received for those accidents. And court documents show Utley was running several businesses during the time he was banking the benefits payments.
And a glaring red flag: As anyone who has experienced a bad back knows pain medication is a lifesaver, but “despite Utley’s allegations of tremendous, debilitating back pain,” the release says, “he only had received $14 worth of prescription pain medication during the 10-year benefit period.”
That was once in 2012. But between 2013 and 2022, prosecutors said, no prescriptions at all were filled for pain medication for his injury.