- Associated Press - Monday, June 23, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A former Utah congressional staffer killed himself in March after being accused of lying about his Iraq War injuries to collect disability benefits, records obtained Monday show.

Gilbert Prado, 49, shot himself in the chest with a handgun on March 19 at a Draper outlet mall, the court records state.

Judge Ted Stewart dismissed the criminal case on April 2.

Prado had pleaded not guilty. His attorney Benjamin McMurray could not immediately be reached for comment.

Federal prosecutors had filed a 15-count indictment against Prado, saying he wrongfully told Veterans Affairs officials that he had been hurt in an explosion in Iraq in 2006.

In an email statement, the office of Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz said the death of Prado was tragic.

“We were sorry to hear about his death,” spokeswoman M.J. Henshaw said. “Our heart goes out to his loved ones.”

Pamela Ulmer of the state medical examiner’s office in Salt Lake City certified the manner of death as suicide. Prado was buried on March 24 at Valley View Cemetery in Torrington, Wyoming, where his father, Henry Prado lives.

The elder Prado declined comment except to say his son, “used to buy licorice; he used to go to the movies.”

Prado landed his two-year paid position in the Republican congressman’s Provo field office through the Wounded Warrior Project, the office said. He worked there from 2010 to 2011.

Chaffetz has said his staffers became concerned about whether Prado’s story about injuries was true, and his office referred the case to authorities.

Prado received monthly disability payments from August 2011 to March 2012, totaling $18,000, prosecutors said. They did not challenge the fact that Prado served in the military.

The indictment contends that Prado lied during his VA evaluation for benefits when he said the improvised explosive device blew up 40 feet from him, slamming him against a truck. Prado said the blast caused a concussion, broken ribs, vision problems, headaches and memory loss, authorities said.

Prosecutors said he falsely claimed he had injured his elbows while breaking down doors during searches and had recurring nightmares about shooting and killing two men.

The VA determined in 2009 he had post-traumatic stress disorder, and he received the monthly disability benefits. He requested an increase in benefits the next year, citing injuries to his brain and elbows, but the agency denied the request.

The VA did grant his request for an increase in benefits in 2011, the indictment said.

Prado worked on constituent issues for Chaffetz, according to a 2011 congressional office directory.

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