FORT PIERCE — A former St. Lucie County resident will be sentenced in August, possibly up to 10 years in federal prison, for fraudulently claiming injuries for disability benefits.
Zachary Barton, 36, in a plea deal announced Friday by the U.S. Attorney's Office, admitted he lied on a mental health test by reporting to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in West Palm Beach that he had been in combat, qualifying him for post-traumatic stress disorder benefits worth more than $245,000.
Barton also falsely reported that he could not lift more than 10 to 20 pounds and had been using a cane to walk since 2010, prosecutors said. Instead, social media posts between 2019 and 2021 showed Barton was an avid bodybuilder who participated in competitions.
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While he lived in St. Lucie County, Barton had a membership at the Palm Beach Sports Club in Port St. Lucie from September 2017 to February 2019, investigators said. Records showed he checked-in almost daily during that time.
Barton moved to Colorado Springs in the summer of 2019, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Surveillance set up by investigators in St. Lucie showed Barton moving furniture out of his home with no signs of physical ailment.
Barton pleaded guilty Thursday to theft of government funds from a federal agency. His sentencing is scheduled for August 11 at the federal courthouse in Fort Pierce.
Lamaur Stancil is the Treasure Coast regional economy reporter covering business and industries, including retail, tourism and hospitality. Contact him at 321-987-7179 or email@example.com and follow him at Lamaur Stancil on Facebook and @TCPalmLStancil on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Disability fraud: Former St. Lucie County veteran pleads guilty