Why won’t the US Attorney for CO prosecute Stolen Valor Act cases?

 
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DuncanDoJ  Protect the warriors; go after the phonies. Rick Duncan was a Marine with a compelling story to tell, and tell it he did, to anyone who would listen.  A graduate of the Naval Academy, Rick had been in the Pentagon when the plane hit on September 11, 2001.  Volunteering for duty in Iraq, Duncan rose to the rank of Captain, and although openly gay, was assigned to lead a Marine Battalion in the battle of Fallujah.  During the house to house battles there he had a finger shot off and suffered a severe head injury that required a plate be put in his head.  He returned to the states disillusioned with the war and became executive director of the Colorado Veterans Alliance. Partisan, MoveOn.com-ally VoteVets asked Duncan to be a blogger for them where he wrote under the handle of “USMCinCO.”  The radical anti-war group “Iraq Veterans Against the War” (which does not require service in Iraq) asked Capt. Duncan to appear at several of their events to talk about his experiences.  Various candidates for state and Federal offices in Colorado during the last election cycle asked Duncan to appear in their political commercials. But Rick Duncan never existed.  He was in fact Rick Strandlof, a man wanted on an outstanding warrant.  In March and April of this year his story started to fall apart, with military bloggers chronicling every facet of his downfall.  VoteVets and IVAW quickly scrubbed the internet of his presence, and the campaign ads featuring him speaking were removed from YouTube.  Anderson Cooper of CNN delivered the coup de grace... In July of 2005, Representative John Salazar, Democrat from Colorado introduced the “Stolen Valor Act.”  Briefly summarized, the act provides that (among other things):
Whoever falsely represents himself or herself, verbally or in writing, to have been awarded any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the armed forces of the United States, or any of the service medals or badges awarded to the members of such forces, or the ribbon, button, or rosette of any such badge, decoration or medal, or any colorable imitation thereof shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.
The bill passed both the House and the Senate (in a version sponsored by Kent Conrad of North Dakota) and was signed into law by the President on December 20, 2006.  The Denver Post reported on the bill after it was signed into law:
Salazar, a Vietnam War [era] veteran, authored a bill he called the Stolen Valor Act at the urging of Colorado State University at Pueblo student Pam Sterner. She wrote a school paper about the lack of a law prohibiting anything other than the false wearing of a war medal. Under the new law, anyone who falsely claims to be a decorated military veteran can be punished with up to six months in prison and a $5,000 fine. The penalties are double for a claim involving the Distinguished Service Cross, Air Force Cross, Navy Cross, Silver Star or Purple Heart.
Last week I began to hear rumors from people I knew in Colorado that the United States Attorney for the District of Colorado, David M. Gaouette, had decided against prosecuting Duncan/Strandlof.  Perplexed by this, I contacted his office by email:
I know of a few relatively high profile instances of violations of the Stolen Valor Act in Colorado, most notably that of Rick Duncan/Strandlof. I have been informed by individuals I know that the US Attorney there in Colorado is not going to pursue those charges. I was wondering if you could let me know if that was in fact an accurate reflection of the situation, or if you would care to provide some context for that?
The response was a rather terse “Please contact FBI Special Agent [redacted] at 303-629-xxxx”  And so I did.  I spoke with the Special Agent, who happens to be a former Marine.  Now, let me interject that the FBI in Denver is a top notch outfit, as proven just this weekend by them arresting 3 men on terrorism related charges.     The Agent that I spoke with knew exactly what I was calling about, and every minute reference I dropped about the Duncan Affair he knew off the top of his head.  Now, I will not relate the entire conversation, since I am sure he would rather not be dragged into this, but he made it abundantly clear that it was the US Attorney's decision alone to drop the case (which he seemed to disagree with) and that he was not authorized to tell me much more than that.  He did inform me that the process is that the office of the US Attorney will send a letter to the FBI declining to prosecute on the charge, and generally contain the reasoning such a decision was made.  He said he had not as yet received that letter, nor would he be at liberty to release it to me even if he had. I once again contacted the US Attorney's office, and the PR guy who had initially responded to my email replied to neither my follow up emails, nor to my phone message.  I next contacted the office of Representative Salazar, however two voice messages have not been returned as of the time of publishing this post.  If either the US Attorney or Representative Salazar responds, I will post that response in full. Outing phony veterans has been a bit of a cottage industry for Military Bloggers.  The most notorious was probably Jesse MacBeth, a man who claimed to have served in Iraq with the Rangers and having killed “hundreds” of Iraqis, some while they took refuge in a mosque.  His story was debunked fairly easily, what with wearing his beret backwards, his sleeves rolled the wrong way, wearing the wrong color T-Shirt, and the fact his stories couldn't pass even a rudimentary laugh test.

Macbeth_uniform

Earlier VoteVets had been burned by a guy named Josh Lansdale, whose tales of the horrors of war were debunked by his own first sergeant, and numerous members of the media who had embedded with his unit.  Television Ads for VoteVets featuring Josh as well as one for a Senate candidate were quietly retired. No case has been as abundantly clear as that of “General Baxter.”

baxter5-300x285

  Jonn Lilyea of This Ain't Hell requested the military records of “General Baxter” through a Freedom of Information Act request to the National Personnel Records Center who confirmed that Baxter had been discharged as a PFC.  The Baltimore office of the FBI declined to investigate, despite a picture of him wearing a Combat Infantryman's Badge and a Silver Star (among other unearned awards.)  I truly don't understand the logic of the US Attorney for Colorado and the FBI office in Baltimore.  To those of us who served in combat, each of these phonies robs a little bit of the honor we earned through our military experiences.  Duncan, MacBeth and Lansdale all used their phony war records to push a radical point of view, one which The American Legion and other veterans organizations spend a great deal of energy trying to refute.  The service-member as blood-thirsty villain meme is one we actively must refute, whether it appears in a New York Times article using skewed statistics to show that service-members are more prone to violent criminal acts, or the now discredited DHS report that returning men and women are ripe for recruitment by radical fringe groups. We will continue to debunk these individuals who do harm to the legacy of the warriors of today and yesterday, but it would be nice if we could count on the US Attorneys and FBI agents to uphold the law in order to help us.  After all, isn't that why these laws are passed?
Posted in Uncategorized, the burner | 146 comments
 
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Comments

I think the best part of the call to the Baltimore FBI office was when the agent told me that I must have too much time on my hands if I assembled such an airtight case against Baxter.

[...] This from some guy named MOTHAX at The Burn Pit; [...]

what gets me all worked up are these organizations ready to put these fakers at the front of their political agenda and do damage to the overall effort to support our veterans…

I think he should be dragged to the Ranger Rendezvous, and his picture passed around.

After that, a Federal Judge should sentence him to cleaning bedpans at Walter Reed for the next ten years.

I thank the American Legion for sending me this link. These kind of acts should be punishable with a larger fine. In alot of cases it is about money. Raise the penalty to $250,000 and you will see alot more of these individuals be prosecuted.

As a Viet Nam veteran I have seen a number of phony vets claiming to have been in Viet Nam. It usually only takes a few minutes to find out they were lying. Every war has it's phonies. The real vets can spot them. Phonies need to be exposed for the liars they are.

Bag 'em and drag 'em! Enough is enough.

I'm a Kernal in the Navy Green Berays. I served in the Mexican American War as well as the Kenyan American war. I'm appalled that they won't prosecute this scumbag!

Seriously though, if we all wrote letters to the A.G. do you think he'll drop his liberal attitute and prosecute this guy?

[...] criminal who could have been charged by the Colorado United States Attorney’s office, but it does not look like that will happen. Here is some background. Rick Duncan was a Marine with a compelling story to tell, and tell it he [...]

if this is a test, and no one is there to see the results, then does it still constitute as a test?

It is indeed the question of that ages isn't it Jack?

Have to agree that it's probably politically-driven - afraid of the antiwar crowd, the Attorney General has chosen expediency over principal. What a telling characteristic for someone responsible for enforcing the rule of law.

With Eric Holder in charge the DoJ is more politicized than ever in our history. If one of these fake vets claimed to have participated in CIA interrogations I bet they'd get more attention.

Looking at the photo of "General Baxter," I believe that he is not wearing the Combat Infantryman Badge but the Expert Infantryman Badge. You would think that these "phoney soldiers" could at least do some research. The first "phoney soldier" I met claimed to be a WWI veteran and General Pershing's driver. A number of veteran's groups believed him and brought him to see my partner and myself because our job ws helping veterans. He claimed that his military records were completely destroyed in the St. Louis fire and, because he had no proof of military service he could not get a pension. For several years, local veteran's organizations and individual veteran's had been providing him with food, clothing, housing and other necessities. Turned out that he had never been in the service but had started calling himself a veteran when he was panhandling in the 1930's. He said people gave more to veterans. Over the years, he perfected his spiel until he almost believed it himself. This was in the early 1970's and when we told the veteran's groups that the guy was not a veteran, they refused to believe us.

John Salazar is still in Congress, his brother Ken the former Senator is in the President's Cabinet. Can these two not pressure the local AG or even the idiot Holder?

That's what I am hoping for Natty. Rep Salazar has been real good on veterans issues, and this is a bill he made happen, so he has a vested interest in seeing it upheld. Hopefully enough people will express interest to his staff that this will raise to the level that he really goes to bat. I'm cautiously optimistic.

It's entirely likely that no one knows that the US Attorney isn't prosecuting. I only knew because I have been hounding folks to find out what is the story with Strandlof. He's the worst kind of human, who persists in claiming that his lies were an effort to aid vets.

I intend to contact both Representative Salazar and David Gaouette as they are in my district and they are both up for re-election next year. I hope a little political maneuvering and a threat that they may not retain their seat will light a fire to get some of the Stolen Valor cases prosecuted as they should rightfully be. The best way to get anything done is to vote the SOB's out and put a competent person in their postion.

While visiting Six Flags in Gurnee this summer I noticed the security guards were wearing military issue ribbons on their Great America uniforms. Decorations I saw included the ribbons for the National Defense Medal, Marine Good Conduct Medal and I recognized a sea service deployment ribbon. One rent-a cop had three rows of ribbons. I e-mailed them asking if these people were veterans that were awarded those decorations for service and someone called me and said no. Some could be veterans but the ribbons they were wearing are for their work at Six Flags...what ya think of that?

Good question. Take photos and names of these creeps and publicize them in the web. How can the government proseccute these phonies when they have enough phonies within their own ranks.

Should the Commander-in-Chief be leading this charge?

I thought the Anderson Cooper interview should win an Emmy -- asking a liar if he is a liar is crackerjack reporting! However, Rick Duncan/Strandlof/Goofball's answer validated the question. Ronnie Reagan's decision to deinstitutional wackos may need judicial review and serious reevaluation.

Yo VoteVets -- thanks for helping expose these phonies! Got any more in your motormouth pool?

I just sent an email to David M. Gaouette email address/office

Dear Sir,

This is a disgrace.. someone makes such visible and yet false claims and there are no consequences for him. We are rewarding bad behavior. I urge you to reconsider and set the record straight, failure to do so insults those who have served honorably and those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend our freedom.

Thank you for your time.

Steve Orleski

I also posted this on twitter urging others to contact his office..

Cop-in-Charge said:
"Ronnie Reagan’s decision to deinstitutional [sic] wackos may need judicial review and serious reevaluation."

Where did you come up with this?
States closed their psychiatric facilities based mostly on media pressure over events at Willowbrook and other facilities.
It was liberal pressure that closed the nut houses, not President Reagan.
Put the blame where it belongs.

Here I am a 25 year retired Chief and I'm embarrassed to claim Vietnam Veterans status even though I qualify, since I never served in country. I only qualify because I was in boot camp during in April 1975. It disgusts me to think that people would claim anything they didn't actually earn. Why no prosecution for this egregious fraudulent behavior? Politcally motivated?

I'm a real retired Marine LtCol who having served in Vietnam as a sergeant and with broken time for college, retired at my present rank in early 98, the oldest of my bunch. This sort of thing really pisses me off. I have long believed all this "we support the troops" crap is just that and is nothing more than over compensation for the insane treatment we vets endured during Vietnam. This opinion seems to be proven by the A.G.'s failure to pursue these maggots for something that may not seem like a big deal to them, but means everything to us. You couple this b.s. with Homeland's describing me and my kind as potential terrorist and you can virtually see smoke coming from my ears. When I look about me, over the land I fought so often to protect and weigh the losses of so many friends in real battles and training mishaps, I sometimes wonder just what the heck we all did it for in the first place.

Can someone publish the address of the Colorado AG. Maybe with enough pressure he would change his mind.

Hey Windwalker- If you click his name above there is a contact page with email, phone and mailing address. If you get a response, please share it with us here.

We need to quit wasting our time with jackasses like these fakes. They're obviously mentally challenged and need to be slapped on the wrist then forgotten.... we shouldn't waste our resources. The real vet's need our help and that's where we need to focus.

Americans Doing What Americans Do Best - Support your veterans.

Mike

Do you really think putting pressure on anyone in the current administration would really help? I don't! These are the are the same type of individuals who got this group elected to start with. Anti America and anti military.

Veterans that are used by organizations in high profile public positions-pardon the pun--should, absolutely, be vetted.

Doesn't this guy look like Slingblade? Maybe he likes French Fried Taters.. UMMhh UMMhh

I think we all agree that the act is deplorable. I served 26 years in the military, including two tours in Vietnam, so i take this very seriously. However, at the end of AC's interview, it states that the FBI gets 50 of these type cases every week. That is more than 2500 every year. I have a couple of friends who are FBI Field Agents and they will tell you that their counter terrorism workload keeps them from being able to devote the time they need for major criminal cases. When the U.S. Attorney takes his/her case before a Judge, they must have the evidence to support a conviction. Without all the investigative evidence, the Judge is going to throw the case out before trial. I don't think it would be too difficult for a good defense attorney to make a case for mental defect for this a-hole. As much as I would like to see this guy prosecuted, if the U.S. Attorney can't get a conviction, it will just make it more difficult down the road. Regardless of whether they can get this to trial, Strandlof will get his judgement from a much higher authority when he finds himself rotting in hell.

If

Whoever falsely represents himself or herself, verbally or in writing, to have been awarded any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the armed forces of the United States, or any of the service medals or badges awarded to the members of such forces, or the ribbon, button, or rosette of any such badge, decoration or medal, or any colorable imitation thereof shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

or

Under the new law, anyone who falsely claims to be a decorated military veteran can be punished with up to six months in prison and a $5,000 fine. The penalties are double for a claim involving the Distinguished Service Cross, Air Force Cross, Navy Cross, Silver Star or Purple Heart.

REQUIRE the wearing of or claim of earning an award but make no penalty for claiming to be a member of the military, (there is a different law that covers impersonation), then it is no wonder that the US Attorney refused to prosecute. Based on the information above, he did not claim to be a "DECORATED" veteran.

"Rick Duncan was a Marine with a compelling story to tell, and tell it he did, to anyone who would listen. A graduate of the Naval Academy, Rick had been in the Pentagon when the plane hit on September 11, 2001. Volunteering for duty in Iraq, Duncan rose to the rank of Captain, and although openly gay, was assigned to lead a Marine Battalion in the battle of Fallujah. During the house to house battles there he had a finger shot off and suffered a severe head injury that required a plate be put in his head. He returned to the states disillusioned with the war and became executive director of the Colorado Veterans Alliance."

Now we NEED to work on getting the law to cover people like him that claimed to be VETERANS, or other UNIFORMED SERVICES PERSONNEL when they never have been.

Regarding Baxter, he SHOULD be prosecuted for wearing Decorations / Medals which he never earned. He clearly falls under the Stolen Valor Act.

Maybe LOCAL LAW Enforcement in Baltimore can charge him if the FBI won't or can't for some reason take on the case. Most States incorporate Federal Laws as enforceable by their Law Enforcement Officers.

Just a thought.

Gary- The FBI Agent told me he had already completed the investigation, and it was a slam dunk.

If we don't uphold this law, should we just repeal it? I just worry if there are no consequences for this, that more and more phony veterans will show up. This guy wasn't just making up stories to get a few free beers, he was using his "service" to elect certain candidates, to push a political agenda, to accuse our troops of atrocities. I fear what allowing them to continue to do stuff like this without repercussions would mean.

Martin, if you go to some of the links, you will see that he did in fact claim to be decorated. I had it on youtube videos as well, but IVAW took the videos down.

Mothax, remember what they say " once it's on the internet it will always be on the internet." You can never completely get rid of a posting or a video. Someone will have it or it's still out there on a server and I'm the FBI would definitley have a copy of the videos and claims this idiot made.

I also feel that you don't walk away from a justified fight just because you "might" get beat. Take a stand don't be like this country was back during Vietnam. Left friends there that this type of persons actions only mock what they gave.

As a US Navy vet who served during the Vietnam Era, though not anywhere near Vietnam, I cannot imagine claiming that I did. Anyone who does falsely claim he or she did deserves prosecution to the fullest extent of the law, and I agree with Rjay about a mandatory vetting process.

If Mr. Salazar will not return calls and/or do something about the US Attorney who refuses to prosecute the case, then the American Legion should do two things: First, send a letter to all members of Congress who are members of the Armed Services Committee and ask for their indulgence. I would especially pray upon Sen McCain for his indulgence.

Secondly, the American Legion should rent a bill board that is closest to the US Attorney's Office with the following message: US Attorney refuses to abide by the Stolen Valor Act and prosecute fake war veteran. Disgraceful & dishonorable behavior should not be rewarded. Contact Us Attorney "Mr X" at XXX-555-1212.

Sometimes when the community is advised of the gravity of the situation, they band together and force things to get done. Coloradians may just need a booster shot in the arm to get started.

In addition to passing around emails and such, has anyone looked to see where the actual office is in Denver for Attorney General Dumbass? Sometimes a few people at a time standing around with banners and such gets media attention. Get with the local VFW, Legion, and other groups and try to keep a few people in front of the office every day during business hours for a few weeks. The longer it gos, the better chance you have of it becoming National News.

I'd love to help, but I'm in Afghanistan. . . no really I am. . . I'm being serious.

Amen Joe. Now that's something that these people understand. Political pressure

Todd- Yep you are, or atleast your computer is! :) Thanks for your service bud.

And James- The FBI kept the videos as well. I screwed up and should have saved them when it went down, I know better now and screen cap everything.

Joe- Hoping the US Attorney will reconsider. The big thing I want right now is the letter of declination to find out what their thinking was on not prosecuting, however I have now sent 3 emails to the Attorney's office, including a link to this post, and thus far....radio silence.

As an Army veteran who served during the Vietnam era, 1967-70. I find imposters despecable! They should have their collective butts shot off! If only one was made an example of, then the nonsense would end! If you do not hear from Salazar let us know. I'd be happy to rattle his cage!

What a shock. We're wasting time and energy even talking to this administration. In fact, there isn't a leader in the whole of DC.

I bet if he was impersonating an FBI agent they'd be all over him.

Perhaps we need Congress to pass a law, that makes it against the law, to break the law.

These weasels should not only be exposed but should be prosecuted to the full extent of the (new) law. However, it now appears that nobody in government cares enough to do that.

As a retired Sergeant First Class who served proudly for 20 years in Personnel Administrative positions, I will gladly help prepare Enlistment and Permenant Change of Station orders for this "jarhead" to fulfill his dreams of serving his country. I am very proud of my youngest son who is currently deployed in Afganistan with Co B 2/121 Inf, Georgia National Guard. When I think of the brave young men and women who are serving in all branches of the military, I would volunteer for the firing squad in the execution of such low lifes. But that would be a totgal waste of taxpayer's money; therefore have him pack a bag and head overseas. Not as an American but a man with no country.

I just sent an email to the US Attorneys office here in Colorado. If I get a response I will post it here.

I just got off the phone with one of the local television stations here in Denver. They have an investigative division that looks in to stories like this. They were interested in this story and are going to look into it. They said they will will call me and let me know why the AG is refusing to prosecute this scumbag. When they get back to me I will post the response here.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.