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TAMPA, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — A Tampa veteran could see up to 10 years in prison after prosecutors said he faked being blind in VA tests and was later seen driving, hunting, mowing his lawn and scuba diving, the Department of Justice said Monday in a press release.

A federal jury found Barry Wayne Hoover, 50, guilty of stealing more than $429,000 in disability benefits and making a false claim to a federal agency. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 2022.

The allegations against Hoover, a U.S. Navy veteran, involved him claiming visual impairment to receive Department of Veterans Affairs disability benefits that he was not entitled to, the DOJ said.

"Hoover manipulated the results of subjective tests of his peripheral vision to reflect that he had only a five-degree visual field and was legally blind. The VA found that Hoover was 100 percent disabled based on those manipulated tests," the DOJ said.

Hoover also claimed he could not drive himself, needing someone to drive for him, and last drove only down the street for about three blocks in a recorded phone call to the VA, the DOJ said.

But surveillance, video footage, social media posts and other evidence showed Hoover didn't have any limitations and performed daily activities without assistance such as shopping, driving a car, motorcycle, ATV and boat as well as mowing his lawn, operating a chain saw, hunting, fishing and scuba diving, the DOJ said.

"Expert testimony at trial established that an individual with the five-degree visual field Hoover claimed could not drive and would be reliant on a white cane to function in public," the DOJ news release said.

The VA's Inspector General's office investigated Hoover and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany Fields and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanne Huyler prosecuted the case, which saw Hoover receiving $429.569.09 in improper VA benefits, the DOJ said.

(c)2021 The Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, Fla.)

Visit The Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, Fla.) at www.bradenton.com

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