The suicide bomber detonated inside the dining facility in Baqubah, Iraq, northeast of Baghdad.

U.S. Army Sgt. William Rich was sitting at his desk on Aug. 23, 2005, when a concrete wall fell on top of him. Two Americans were killed in the attack. His fragmentation vest likely saved his life.

No one disputes that he was seriously hurt in the blast.

But more than 18 years later, and almost 6,150 miles away inside a courtroom at the Edward A. Garmatz U.S. Courthouse in Baltimore, a jury is set to decide whether Rich, now 43, of Windsor Mill, faked paralysis and made false statements as part of a scheme to obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits he wasn’t supposed to get. He’s standing trial on five counts of wire fraud and one count of theft of government property.

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“People who play roles will eventually forget their lines,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Colleen McGuinn said in her opening statement on Tuesday.

“What is an act?” she added. “Claiming to be wheelchair-bound.”

Rich, she said, honorably served in the military. But he dishonorably took advantage of an entire system that was designed to help veterans like him, McGuinn said.

He was entitled to receive disability compensation between $3,000 and $4,000 per month, McGuinn said. But Rich, she said, later showed signs of improvement and did not experience a total loss of his lower extremities. Claiming that loss enabled him to instead obtain more than $8,000 per month in tax-free payments, McGuinn said.

“This is not for good days and bad days situations,” she said. “This is total loss of use.”

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McGuinn said the government would present documents, play undercover surveillance videos and present recordings from social media. At one point, she played a clip of Rich lifting weights at the gym.

He received “well over a half a million dollars” in benefits that he was not entitled to receive, she said. The indictment alleges that figure was more than $767,000.

Meanwhile, Gerald Ruter, Rich’s attorney, recalled how his client was born and grew up in Baltimore and enlisted in the armed forces at 18. He specialized in repairing and maintaining heavy vehicles.

Ruter scoffed at the idea that his client conned dozens and dozens of health care workers, stating that he does not yet have an Academy Award.

“You’ll decide whether or not Mr. Rich conned all of these people,” Ruter said in his opening statement.

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“This man is a patriot. This man is a hero,” he added. “And I’ll also tell you what he’s not. He’s not an actor. And he’s not guilty.”

U.S. District Judge Brendan A. Hurson is presiding over the trial, which will resume Monday.

Rich used a walker to enter and exit the courtroom. He caused a stir when he showed up for jury selection wearing a military dress uniform over his shirt, which federal prosecutors alleged was a ploy to gain sympathy.

The investigation into Rich started in 2018 with a proactive effort from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General to root out fraud, waste and abuse.

Senior Special Agent Patrick Prewitt testified that he was part of the team that worked on the case. He said that there were “red flags.”

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The government presented a picture of Rich showing up to an appointment in a wheelchair on March 28, 2019. They then played undercover surveillance video that showed him wheeling himself to his car, standing up, opening the trunk, putting the wheelchair inside and climbing into the driver’s seat.

Later, investigators recorded him standing outside a barbershop.

A rating quality review specialist, Jesse Stout, testified that they reviewed all the evidence in the claims folder.

Once investigators suspected that there was fraud, the VA sent Rich for two examinations.

During the first appointment on Feb. 5, 2021, Rich showed up in a wheelchair and reported “loss of use of both lower extremities,” according to records. “Unable to work because he is a paraplegic and in a wheelchair.”

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Later, on June 17, 2021, Rich reported that his symptoms had remained the same since their onset, records state.

On Oct. 21, 2021, Stout testified, he issued a written decision that lowered the amount of monthly compensation that Rich was entitled to receive, finding that there had been an “erroneous award based on an act of commission or omission by the beneficiary.”

To his knowledge, Rich, he said, did not respond.