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Sirens & Gavels

Checking in: Fake paraplegic

Columnist Doug Clark's annual Budnick awards were a fun reminder of the odd stories that made news in 2009.

He mentioned one case that deserves an update - that of former Bonner County sheriff’s Deputy James M. Sebero, who pleaded guilty in April to charges relating to him lying about being paralyzed and defrauding the federal government out of more than $1.5 million in benefits.

Sebero was sentenced in November to 15 months in prison and ordered to forfeit $950,000. He was ordered to report to prison at a date determined by the probation office, and he's not in custody, according to the federal inmate locator.

Sebero claimed to be paraplegic after serving in the Air Force in the 1970s, according to indictments filed last year in Idaho and Eastern Washington federal courts.

The scheme fell apart after federal agents investigating Sebero for fraudulently performing annual inspections on airplanes learned he’d been receiving VA benefits since 1976, a year after he ended a six-year stint in the Air Force at Fairchild Air Force Base.

In September 2007, more than a year before he was indicted on charges related to the VA fraud, investigators secretly videotaped Sebero being examined at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in northwest Spokane. He used a wheelchair then, but government surveillance cameras showed him walking in and out of the U.S. Courthouse downtown the next day, according to previously published reports.

Read past coverage here.

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