Ocala, Florida – Senior United States District Judge John Antoon II has sentenced George Utley (56, Oklahoma City) to 30 months in federal prison for receiving stolen government property, specifically, Department of Labor (DOL) Disability Benefit Payments. Utley was also ordered to make full restitution to the DOL and to forfeit $732,459.46, representing the value of the stolen funds. Utley had pleaded guilty on February 14, 2022.
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 the Inspector General (OIG) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) revealed that Utley had falsely testified in a 2011 DOL deposition that he never had suffered a previous back injury or been in an automobile accident. Despite Utley’s allegations of tremendous, debilitating back pain, he only had 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 race car, 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.
“Taking taxpayer dollars to which you are not entitled is theft—period,” said HSI Orlando Assistant Special Agent in Charge David Pezzutti. “Our agents at HSI Orlando, working alongside the USPS OIG, are committed to finding those who aim to abuse programs meant to lend a helping hand and bring them to justice.”
This case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service – Office of Inspector General and Homeland Security Investigations. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert E. Bodnar, Jr.