A former Polk County postal worker was playing golf, running in races and traveling while receiving more than $106,000 in disability payments after he was diagnosed with a panic disorder related to fear of public places, according to a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.
Richard I. Carleton III has agreed to plead guilty to making a false statement to obtain federal employee compensation, according to the signed document.
Carleton worked as customer service manager for the U.S. Postal Service in Lakeland in June 2006, when he filed a claim for compensation due to panic disorder with agoraphobia and major depression, the agreement said. A month later, a psychiatrist found Carleton disabled for the reasons claimed, the agreement said, and annual visits to the psychiatrist brought the same diagnosis.
On March 28, 2008, Carleton began receiving monthly disability payments of about $4,381, the agreement said.
On Oct. 14, 2011, he signed a form certifying to the Department of Labor that he was still suffering from the condition and remained eligible for benefits, the agreement said. From that day until May 31 of this year, Carleton received $106,496.79 in compensation, the agreement said.
Agoraphobia is a disorder in which a person avoids situations that might cause the person to panic, specifically public places or where crowds gather, according to the Mayo Clinic.
However, an investigation that included surveillance found that during that 20-month period Carleton was an avid and "competitive" golfer, playing in multiple tournaments at a local golf club of which he was a member, the agreement states.
He was also a runner, participating in various races, maintained a Gold's Gym membership and traveled "extensively" across the country and overseas, the agreement states.
No date has been set for the plea to be entered. If the plea is accepted, Carleton could face a maximum of five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. He would also be ordered to pay restitution to the U.S. Postal Service and Department of Labor.
Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder in which you avoid situations that you're afraid might cause you to panic. You might avoid being alone, leaving your home or any situation where you could feel trapped, embarrassed or helpless if you do panic.
People with agoraphobia often have a hard time feeling safe in any public place, especially where crowds gather. The fears can be so overwhelming that you may be essentially trapped in your own home.
Agoraphobia treatment can be tough because it usually means confronting your fears. But with medications and psychotherapy, you can escape the trap of agoraphobia and live a more enjoyable life