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Fake veteran faces 'stolen valor' charge

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  • Fake veteran faces 'stolen valor' charge

    Thoughts on this?
    Fake veteran faces 'stolen valor' charge

    (CNN) -- Richard Strandlof said he survived the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon. He said he survived again when a roadside bomb went off in Iraq, killing four fellow Marines. He'd point to his head and tell people he had a metal plate, collateral damage from the explosion.

    None of it was true. On Friday, the FBI arrested him on the rare charge of "stolen valor."

    Strandlof, 32, was held "for false claims about receipt of military decorations or medals," an FBI news release said. Charges had been filed in Denver, Colorado, the week before, the bureau said.

    "The penalty for his crime is up to one year incarceration and a $100,000 fine," it said.

    Before his deception was revealed, crowds ate up his story. He canvassed Colorado appearing at the sides of politicians. Inspiring and seemingly authentic, he spoke on behalf of veterans at the state Capitol.

    He formed a group called the Colorado Veterans Alliance.

    The whole thing was a lie, he admitted to CNN's Anderson Cooper earlier this year. Video Watch Strandlof discuss case in June.

    He wasn't at the Pentagon. He was never a Marine. He never served his country. He never graduated from the Naval Academy. He claimed his real name was Rick Duncan.

    Where was he on 9/11, the day he said he witnessed heroism firsthand?

    "I was in San Jose, California, watching it in horror on TV with a few other people," Strandlof told CNN.

    He was at a homeless shelter at the time.

    Strandlof denies being a pathological liar. He says he suffered from "some severely underdiagnosed mental illness" and he got caught up in the moment around "people who are passionate and loved what they did."

    He told CNN he had put on a "production, which I'm sorry for."

    "Hopefully the people that I hurt can in some way gain closure from that, and I myself don't know what I can do, short of leaving them alone and not being in their lives, to make that happen," Strandlof said.

    He said he's not sure exactly how he's hurt people. "It's not for me to say, and time will tell," he said.

    Hal Bidlack, a former Air Force lieutenant colonel, is one of those people. He ran for Congress as a Democrat and had Strandlof appear with him. Bidlack -- who lost to incumbent Republican Doug Lamborn -- isn't too happy.

    "Once one lie fell apart, the whole series of things ... just cascaded into an ocean of lies," he said.

    Bidlack was at the Pentagon when it came under attack on September 11, 2001. He now realizes that Strandlof stole portions of his own story.

    "Now that we know he's a lying fraud," Bidlack said, "I think he was just parroting my own story back to me."

    "There are an awful lot of things that he kept straight to try to fool an awful lot of people for an awful long time."

    Doug Sterner has catalogued hundreds of people claiming to be military veterans who never served in the military. He says it's typical for those perpetuating the hoaxes to claim mental illness.

    "I don't buy that," Sterner said. "What he was doing was looking for a cause to promote himself. I see this repeatedly. I've had a hundred cases just this year like Rick Strandlof's. ... What they're doing is building a kingdom of self and feeding their own ego."

    Sterner has pushed for a federal database listing the names and citations of all decorated military veterans to help put an end to such cases. He said Strandlof has robbed true veterans of their veracity.

    "Doing good does not take away from the bad that he did," he said. "Because of Rick Strandlof, the next global war on terrorism veteran that speaks in a school or talks to the media or gets involved in politics is going to be questioned."

    Ryan Gallucci, a spokesman for AMVETS, agreed.

    "Strandlof's actions dishonor the actual sacrifices of veterans," he told CNN Monday.

    "Second, by commissioning his own advocacy group, Strandlof diverted philanthropy dollars for legitimate causes within the veterans community," Gallucci said.

    "Personally, it just sickens me," Gallucci added. "As a veteran of the war in Iraq, it's unfathomable that someone would propagate such a lie at a time when American men and women are actually putting their lives on the line, and American families are coping with the loss of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice."

    According to the Denver Post, Strandlof came to authorities' attention first in 1997, when he was sentenced to five years on forgery and bad-check charges.

    The FBI was investigating him for fraud when he spoke to CNN -- a charge he denied.

    "We did not take money to use on non-veterans projects. I did not enrich myself on this. I did not gain any money from this," he said.

    He has not been charged with fraud.

    That's not the point, said Sterner. "The one thing he robbed from every veteran that comes out now is credibility."

    Gallucci called Strandlof a "con man" and the case "morally repugnant."

    "Strandlof's actions are exploitation plain and simple, and AMVETS is eager to see justice served," Gallucci said.
    Fake veteran faces 'stolen valor' charge -
    "Every man has his weakness. Mine was always just cigarettes."

  • #2
    As a vet, I find his actions deplorable, weak and dishonorable. As an American, he's no worse than any politician we've ever had. Draft dodgers, liars, deviates, drunkards, rapists, cheats......His story is out, now maybe he can run for office.

    I would recommend, for his health, he stay out of any place where vets might frequent and be emotional or perhaps drinking. I'm sure it'll come around some day!


    • #3
      A perfect, pertinent quote from "shitmydadsays".........
      "The worst thing you can be is a liar....Okay fine, yes, the worst thing you can be is a Nazi, but THEN, number two is liar. Nazi 1, Liar 2"
      12:41 PM Sep 7th from web


      • #4
        Originally posted by 7thsfsniper View Post
        A perfect, pertinent quote from "shitmydadsays".........
        LOL...I just found that site yesterday, his Dad sure speaks the truth don't he?


        • #5
          Originally posted by ZekeJones View Post
          LOL...I just found that site yesterday, his Dad sure speaks the truth don't he?
          The old guy is absolutely priceless!!;)


          • #6
            What was he thinking? Seriously, this is just one of those stories that makes you scratch your head.


            • #7
              Originally posted by zraver View Post
              What was he thinking? Seriously, this is just one of those stories that makes you scratch your head.

              Unfortunately it is a lot more common than you think. Indeed, when I saw the title of this thread I thought it was about a case just uncovered in Australia. This guy was actually the President of a POW Association. Makes you wonder where his head was - the more prominent you are the more likely someone will notice. Perhaps what drives them to the lie drives them to seek more attention.

              Lying POW's family horrified

              LINTON BESSER

              October 6, 2009

              FOR 30 years, Rex Crane was a hero to his family, a survivor of unspeakable wartime horrors.

              ''As a child I would cry with him when he told us stories of the suffering which he endured during the war,'' his step-granddaughter, Caroline Smalley, said yesterday.

              But it was all a lie. On Saturday, Mr Crane, the recipient of more than $400,000 in war pension payments and the president of the Ex-Prisoners of War Association of Australia, was exposed as a fraud.

              Ms Smalley, the 27-year-old granddaughter of Mr Crane's wife, Mary, said she felt ''embarrassed and insulted''.

              ''I thought him a hero because of his positive disposition and his drive to help the POWs make peace with their hurt. He had us all fooled and we are mortified,'' she said.

              Ms Smalley came forward on the family's behalf to express its ''deep sorrow'' to the veterans.

              ''My family is absolutely horrified by Rex's revelations,'' she said. ''My poor grandmother is devastated. Rex didn't confess to us his story until the Friday night just gone and we are still in shock.''

              Mr Crane, who lives in Brisbane, confessed to The Age last Wednesday when confronted with evidence his story was false. ''You can say I'm a fraud,'' he said. ''I feel very bad and humiliated about this I am in a bit of strife now.''

              He had claimed he was abandoned in Malaya at age 15, when the Japanese invaded, and was forced to enlist in a militia. His family and members of the association were told he had been tortured by Japanese soldiers at Outram Road Jail in Singapore and on the Thailand-Burma railway.

              But three military historians discovered that Mr Crane was at Adelaide High School in 1941, the year he claimed to have involuntarily joined the Kedah Volunteer Force in Malaya.

              In an interview with The Age on Wednesday, Mr Crane admitted he had been living a lie.

              Ms Smalley said he had told his family late on Friday night before The Age's story appeared the next day. ''I won't be calling him 'Grandpa' any more,'' she said.

              Since 1988, Mr Crane has received the pension for totally and permanently incapacitated soldiers, and has benefited from the use of a Commonwealth Gold Card, which covers all medical expenses. The Australian Federal Police is now investigating the matter.

              Veterans' Affairs Minister Alan Griffin said: ''In order for someone to defraud the system in the manner suggested, it would require a premeditated case designed to avoid scrutiny and relying on a story where there was little documentary evidence to contradict it.

              ''Should this case be proven, it will suggest a deliberate manipulation of a system where veterans were given the benefit of the doubt when their claims were evaluated.''

              On Thursday, The Age asked Mr Crane how he had fooled the department. ''It was just word of mouth,'' he said. No documents? ''There were documents at times. Different things I had written backwards and forwards to different places.''

              The Age believes he submitted two documents to the department as evidence.

              Ms Smalley said her family ''took him at his word''.

              ''I want to express my deep sorrow for his friends in the POW association who have been like family to him and who have also been betrayed beyond belief.''
              Lying POW's family horrified

              Win nervously lose tragically - Reds C C


              • #8
                More examples

                ...and some more

                More war impostors found

                LORNA EDWARDS

                October 12, 2009

                Rex Crane. Photo: Jeremy Bannister/The Ballarat Courier
                The Veterans Affairs Department is investigating another five cases of war veteran fraud a few days after the head of a prisoner-of-war association Rex Crane was revealed as a fake.

                Veteran Affairs Minister Alan Griffin confirmed that one of the new cases also involved fraudulently claiming war pensions. ''The value of this potential recovery can't be estimated at this stage of the investigation,'' he said.

                In two of the cases, the department found the alleged fraud at the time of the initial claims and were being investigated as attempted fraud.

                RSL state president David McLachlan said veterans were furious Mr Crane had lied his way to more than $400,000 in war service pensions. Mr Crane, 83, was the national president of the Ex-POW Association of Australia. For more than two decades he claimed he had been imprisoned in Singapore and had survived the Thailand-Burma Railway. He was exposed this month.

                While falsely claiming war pensions is fraudulent, it is also an offence under the Defence Act to either dishonestly claim to be a war veteran or wear medals under false pretences.

                Major-General McLachlan said impostors were not uncommon. ''I've had several experiences myself where I've spotted people wearing medals or ribbons on a uniform and you look at them and think it's not right and you challenge them.''

                Vietnam Veterans Association state president Bob Elworthy said he had heard of hundreds of cases.

                ''It happens more often than you'd care to think,'' he said. ''Certainly we know that there are people around who still pass themselves off as being Vietnam veterans and there would have been hundreds exposed over the years.''

                Mr Elworthy said he suspected impostors were driven by loneliness or a lack of achievement in their life. The camaraderie of veterans' groups and the respect and honour given veterans also attracted them. ''It has a real effect on the morale of veterans because above almost any other group veterans are very accepting of other veterans and tend to trust them on face value.''
                War Veteran Fraud | Veterans Affairs Department Uncovers Others After Fake POW Rex Crane

                ....and a bit of history.

                When the stories of an 'old war hero' won't wash

                SIMON CATERSON

                October 10, 2009

                ONE day in 1906, William Voight, a shoemaker and ex-convict, spent his entire savings on a captain's uniform he saw in a shop window in Berlin. Dressed in his new costume, ''Captain'' Voight went to the small town of Kopernik, where he commandeered soldiers marching in the area and used them to take over the town centre.

                Voight ordered the arrest of the mayor and the treasurer and arranged for all the municipal funds to be turned over to him. He disappeared with the money but was caught soon afterwards. Subsequently convicted of fraud and theft, Voight had his sentence reduced by the German kaiser, who was amused by the deception.

                Far from amused this week were family and colleagues of Brisbane war hero, beloved family man and respected community leader Rex Crane. The president of the Ex-Prisoners of War Association of Australia, Crane had claimed to have survived Singapore's notorious Outram Road Jail and the Thai-Burma Railway.

                According to the version of his life familiar to everyone including his wife, Crane had enlisted in 1941 at the age of 15 after having been abandoned by his parents in Malaya. His unit had been operating behind enemy lines when it was captured by the Japanese, making Crane one of the youngest Australian POWs. Among the many gruesome tortures inflicted on Crane and his comrades by their captors was crucifixion.

                But the 83-year-old ''war veteran'' turned out to be a fake. He hadn't even been to war. Alleged to have received more than $400,000 in special veterans' payments, Crane admitted to The Age last weekend that he had been a military impostor for several decades, and began the long march of shame taken by many other fake veterans before him.

                There is no shortage of impostors in Australia and elsewhere from all conflicts. One of the people involved in uncovering Crane's fraud was Lynette Silver, a historian who in 2006 also helped expose the case of "Major" Reg Newton.

                The ''major'', who at the time he was denounced as a fake was junior vice-president of the 8th Australian Division Association, told stories of fighting the Japanese during the fall of Singapore, being awarded the Military Cross by King George VI, and working as a secret agent during the Cold War in Berlin, Laos and Cambodia. Newton - whose father, Captain "Roaring Reg" Newton was a war hero - had served for a few years in the Citizens Military Forces and never left Australia, according to his service record. He said there was no record of his other exploits because they were secret.

                In another case, a self-professed Vietnam veteran went on to receive one of Australia's highest civilian honours after having been ostracised by members of the SAS Association, with whom he marched on at least two Anzac Days. In 2005, Geoff McGibbon was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for services to the Royal Life Saving Society and sport. Angry SAS Association members recalled seeing McGibbon falsely wearing a beret and medals at their meetings, claims that if proven can constitute a criminal offence under Australian law.

                McGibbon admitted to The Age he had lied, but explained: ''Many years ago I did the wrong thing and it was a problem. I was having a bad time with my marriage and I was on the grog and I got involved and it all got out of proportion.''

                The Vietnam War has attracted many impostors, perhaps because the controversial nature of that conflict might seem to confer a special type of heroic victimhood on self-pitying baby boomers. One of the best-known American fake Vietnam veterans is Hollywood actor Brian Dennehy, who appeared in the Rambo movie First Blood, ironically playing the part of a sheriff who persecutes the disaffected Vietnam vet played by Sylvester Stallone.

                Dennehy claimed in interviews to have been something of a real-life Rambo, telling stories of bloody operations in 'Nam. In 1998, Dennehy, who never went to Vietnam, apologised publicly for the lies he had told, but less than a decade later he was reported to be at it again. His acting career, meanwhile, continued on.

                Military history is full of fascinating fakers, often deluded and/or fraudulent. One of the reasons that military impersonation is tempting and relatively easy is the respect that military uniforms and regalia elicit from civilians and lower ranks, the kind of respect that the impostors crave. Often medals earned by real soldiers are purchased to complete the disguise.

                Not just soldiers but often doctors and lawyers have been convincingly impersonated not because they have any special knowledge but simply because the impostors project the demeanour of authority typically associated with members of such professions. As the comedian George Burns once put it: "Sincerity is everything. If you can fake that, you've got it made.''

                Simon Caterson's book Hoax Nation: Australian Fakes and Frauds from Plato to Norma Khouri is due for release next month from Arcade Publications.
                When the stories of an 'old war hero' won't wash

                Win nervously lose tragically - Reds C C


                • #9
                  Glad they catch and prosecute such people. Even people that have to dress accordingly and work alongside members of the military would never dream of such disrespect. He deserves exactly what he gets.:(
                  Fortitude.....The strength to persist...The courage to endure.


                  • #10
                    I think this type of thing happens a lot, especially in Ex Pat Communities. When I was working in Saudi (Marconi), the vast majority of employees were ex-military, and I found it a little strange that 90% of them were all Ex-SAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Chaobam Armour View Post
                      I think this type of thing happens a lot, especially in Ex Pat Communities. When I was working in Saudi (Marconi), the vast majority of employees were ex-military, and I found it a little strange that 90% of them were all Ex-SAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
                      *Sometimes its tough, If you have to wear a uniform and you dont belong to the military but work alongside them (since it is their rules), many people take for granted that you do since they cannot tell the difference between most uniforms in one given branch of the service. I cant tell you how many times this has happened and you try in all good faith to make them understand that you do not belong and therefore are not entitled to any credit, nor sir/mam or anything else which is given to those fine men and women who serve our armed forces. Sometimes its downright disheartening because they unknowingly refuse to recognize what you are telling them directly.
                      You do your honest best to inform them, after that theres is not much more that you can do. The very least I can say is I try and that I would NEVER take such credit for the thankless job those men,women and kids have every day.
                      Last edited by Dreadnought; 13 Oct 09,, 21:37.
                      Fortitude.....The strength to persist...The courage to endure.