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Phony Marine due for arrest


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  • Phony Marine due for arrest

    Rick Glen Strandlof, a former mental patient who posed as a wounded Marine captain to found a statewide veterans group and campaign for political candidates, is being prosecuted under the Stolen Valor Act for making claims he received a Purple Heart.

    A federal arrest warrant was issued Thursday evening for Strandlof, who used the alias Rick Duncan when he was acting as a spokesman for veterans issues.

    Strandlof will be charged with one count of making false claims about receipt of military decorations or medals, a misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail and a $250,000 fine.

    Strandlof, 32, had not been arrested as of Friday evening.

    Jeffrey Dorschner, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Colorado, would not say whether authorities know his whereabouts. Dorschner said only that Strandlof will be brought to Denver to appear before a federal magistrate after he is arrested.

    Strandlof is the first person to be charged in Colorado under the Stolen Valor Act. The act, passed in 2006, made it possible to prosecute military fakers who make only verbal claims about earning military medals. Prior to the act, phony veterans had to be caught wearing the medals to be prosecuted.

    "A lot of people wonder about the seriousness of this," said Pam Sterner, the Pueblo woman who wrote the Stolen Valor Act for a political science class. "What they don't understand is that to misrepresent yourself as someone who has earned a Purple Heart and to claim you are in the same league as someone who has sacrificed their life or lost a limb or something, that is uncalled for."

    Suspicions aroused

    Strandlof was exposed in May after members of the group he founded, the Colorado Veterans Alliance, became suspicious of claims that he had served three tours in Iraq, survived the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the Pentagon, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and suffered a brain injury during the battle for the city of
    Rick Glen Strandlof founded a veterans group in Colorado.

    They searched military records and contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation after determining he had never served in the military. The FBI began investigating Strandlof and arrested him in May on an outstanding El Paso County traffic warrant.

    In interviews with the FBI and local and national media outlets, Strandlof admitted making up the stories. He said he suffered from mental illness. He had previously been hospitalized in a mental institution in Nevada.

    People "deeply hurt"

    "I think he probably is a real con artist. It's tragic. His ideas were to do good and help the vets, but people were deeply hurt by what he did," said his grandfather Richard Strandlof, a veteran who lives in Montana and said he hasn't seen his grandson in 15 years.

    The investigation of the phony veteran took five months because the FBI also was investigating whether Strandlof used any of the money he collected on behalf of the Colorado Veterans Alliance for personal gain. Dorschner would not comment on what the FBI found. But there are no charges relating to the fundraising.

    The Stolen Valor case against Strandlof was helped by the Internet. Portions of speeches he gave as Rick Duncan are posted on YouTube videos. In one, he claims he was wounded and lost four Marines under his command. He also claimed to have a metal plate in his head from that injury and to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.

    The affidavit noted that a month before his arrest, Strandlof had agreed to appear at a veterans event wearing his medals, but he showed up without them.

    When asked why, he said he did not wear them because "it would appear egotistical."

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