6-year term for Iraq war dodger Isle veterans court sought
By JIM SUHR
EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. — A military veteran who claimed a rollover wreck left him paralyzed collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer benefits and was kept stateside when his Army unit shipped off to Iraq. Yet doctors could never pinpoint why he couldn't use his legs.
Federal prosecutors had an explanation Friday: Jeffrey Rush was a habitual liar.
While his unit was off to war, the 27-year-old snorkeled in Florida and schmoozed at an inaugural ball in Washington in a wheelchair, this time insisting that serving in Iraq cost him his ability to walk. Yet, his legs stayed muscular and he fathered a child with his wife.
Five months after pleading guilty to conspiracy and fraud, Rush stood fully upright before U.S. District Judge William Stiehl on Friday in an Illinois courtroom as he was sentenced to more than six years in prison. The scam, he said, simply spiraled out of control.
Rush also tearfully asked for leniency for his ex-wife, Amy Rush, who awaits sentencing tomorrow.
The judge, an 84-year-old Navy veteran of World War II and the Korean War, listened to Rush's sometimes rambling plea for leniency, but sided with prosecutors and ordered him to pay back $314,806.11.
"It's clear to me, Mr. Rush, you do have a problem — your principal problem is telling the truth," the longtime federal judge told Rush, who stood straight in his cream-colored suit, yellow shirt and striped tie.
Authorities said the Rushes stuck to his bogus story that he had lost the use of his legs after a 2004 rollover crash, just weeks before his Army unit from Kansas was deployed to Iraq.
The deception ultimately unraveled after the couple sued Ford Motor Co. in 2005, along with the maker of the seat belts in the 2002 Explorer Sport Trac he wrecked. The suit blamed both companies for his supposed paralysis and his wife's resulting "loss of consortium and conjugal relations."
The Rushes had a son in July 2006.
Rush wrongly got $107,857 in benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs and scammed $28,730 from the Social Security Administration, according to court records.