Prosecutors AWOL on Stolen Valor

| January 3, 2018 | 18 Comments

The Times Free Press talks to Mary Schantag of the POW Network on the subject of the rarity of prosecutions of stolen valor cases;

Schantag said she has seen close to 100 cases in which false information got into military records, whether through self-editing, intimidation of a clerk who handled documents or other means.

“Unless there are orders for this someplace, unless [the claimant] has witnesses, it’s still questionable,” she said.

Violation of the Stolen Valor Act is punishable by a fine and up to a year in prison. The problem is finding a federal agency with the resources and staffing to devote to the cases, Schantag said.

“They’re not going to drop their work on terrorism because we’ve got a guy claiming eight Purple Hearts,” Schantag said. “It’s common sense. That’s reality. But the state level may have the ability to pick that up. It’s a federal crime in most instances, falsifying military records but it pales in comparison to the level of other crimes going on that the FBI has to go after.”

Several states have stolen valor laws on the books, including Alabama, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas, according to news reports.

Schantag’s voice began to break when she described her passion for the issue.

“It is to make sure our military history and the lives lost to fight for freedom, to make sure those things are accurately told,” she said. “These liars are changing military history and if you think about it, 50 to 100 years from now, who’s going to be able to figure out the truth or a lie?”

Stolen valor takes away from those who spilled blood and, in some cases, lost their lives, she said.

The Times Free Press became interested in the issue when they published the story of Steven Holloway the self-proclaimed “most-decorated veteran of the Vietnam War”. It looks like he “salted” his records before he left the military, in other words, somehow he altered his records so that the supply clerk in a Transportation unit, became an often-wounded hero who landed a helicopter when the pilot was killed. We’ve seen that happen often, but we’ve only seen one guy prosecuted, and ultimately convicted for altering his records. Robert Brooks was sentenced to five years probation in Davenport, Iowa.

I know the FBI is investigating at least one other, having talked to the investigator recently, but, yeah, those investigations are rare. The states have been much more successful prosecuting valor thieves, like New Jersey’s prosecution of Robert Guidi, and Georgia’s prosecution of Shane Ladner last year.

Category: Stolen Valor Act

Comments (18)

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  1. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    Shit we don’t prosecute the firearms charge here in the Baystate when we catch someone with a firearm. We have the mandatory one year jail term but we drop it first if we can get a plea to the lesser charges…

    Stolen valor? It’s not even a blip if we can get a plea to something to save a court date.

  2. AW1Ed says:

    Odd how they’ll prosecute someone posing as a federal LEO most ricky-tick, though.

    Go figure.

  3. ChipNASA says:

    I say we push for a law to punish prosecutors who don’t prosecute the laws being broken, for which they were hired on to do in the first place.

  4. Graybeard says:

    On the one hands, there is the problem with limited resources.

    On the other hand, there are things that with some vigorous prosecution in a few cases can reduce crime in general.

    I do not like the plea bargaining or plain failure to prosecute for things like DWI, gun crimes, assault and so forth. But while I don’t like it, if the DA is overwhelmed with the meth heads and gang bangers, the SV jerks can be overlooked – except when the DA’s office clues in that SV is a sign of other nefarious activity as well.

  5. Andy11M says:

    Jonn, who is the FBI after? I know it has to be someone you have featured here. Oh this is killing me.

  6. Dave Hardin says:

    If I believed in a God of anykind I would be on my knees thanking him for the likes of Mary Schantag.

    What she has done for all of us over the years can never be repaid. The rest of us in the SV community just stand in her shadow.

    Thank you Mary, Semper Fidelis

    • Hondo says:

      Amen. The same is true for a few others, both living and dead.

    • Sparks says:

      Well said Dave. Thank you.

    • Patrick408 says:

      Agree 100% Dave, I worked with Mary about 7 years ago on a SV case that i was being sued over defamation from a POS wannabe. I was shocked when all the people who had first hand knowledge of what this fake was saying wouldn’t get involved because it was a law suit. Only me and a SEAL had the balls to give deposition. The case was eventually dropped, but thats how i found this site so i guess thats a good trade off.

      Semper Fi to all of you helping in this fight!

    • Excellent point Dave Hardin.

      I was also impressed with Mary Schantag’s well-informed, balanced perspective, e.g., “‘They’re not going to drop their work on terrorism because we’ve got a guy claiming eight Purple Hearts,’ Schantag said. ‘It’s common sense. That’s reality.'”

      Her statement is also damn smart from a public education and persuasion perspective. If she had exclaimed, “Federal prosecutors should make Stolen Valor cases a #1 priority!”, folks would think, “But what about terrorists, and serial murderers…” and they might be less sympathetic to the SV problem.

      In contrast, Mary’s even-handed, levelheaded statement is more likely to result in readers thinking something like, “Well that’s true, but maybe they could go after these liars a bit more aggressively…”

  7. Mason says:

    If the FBI won’t or can’t undertake the investigations, then the services should. CID, OSI, NCIS could add these in, and they’d be better equipped to look into the military records.

  8. Wilted Willy says:

    I only wish that when we drop a SV case in their lap with all the documentation that is needed, they still ignore the facts and don’t prosecute the flaming assholes that do it! I have been trying now for almost two years to stop the payments to my pos brother that has done this for over 20 years, but he still keeps getting his check every month for lying? I can’t get anyone to go after him!!!

  9. rgr769 says:

    There is another one who was actually prosecuted. Richard Barr Cayton was prosecuted by the US Attorney in Texas. He falsely claimed he was a POW, captured by the enemy while leading a LRRP patrol while serving in G Company/75th Infantry/23rd ID in the RVN. Retired CSM Cayton had received VA benefits based on the false claim. He had also had his records doctored to support the claim. They made him pay back the VA bucks as part of his sentence, which included some kind of diversion program. I helped Mary with her investigation, as I had some first hand knowledge. But without her dogged work, it never would have been prosecuted.

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