Semper Fraud: Federal Prosecutors Charge Another For “Stolen Valor”

story.burton.courtesyWe have another criminal case of unauthorized wearing of medals — a growing line of such cases of “stolen valor” cases. Steven Burton, 39, of Palm Springs, California would wear enough Navy medals to make a Soviet general blush, but he never served a day in the military. He made the mistake of going to his High School reunion in a Marine uniform, where he ran into a real Navy commander who was a bit curious about his Navy Cross.

Burton seemed uninhibited in his claims, including a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and the Navy Cross, the highest medal awarded by the U.S. Navy. It was the latter that attracted the attention of a Navy commander when she met Burton at the reunion. He was also wearing the uniform of a Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel. She asked to take a picture with him so that she could show it to the Navy and confirmed that he never served as a Marine or as a member of any other military service. She then turned over the picture to the FBI.

The FBI found postings were he discussed engaging in combat and serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, particularly in Falluja. His rank appears to have changed wildly including the picture above where he is demoted to a gunnery sergeant but wears a full panoply of medals including the Navy Cross, the Legion of Merit, the Navy and Marine Corps medal, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, among others.

Burton actually works in a bank.

We have previously discussed “stolen valor” cases, here. I still have some misgivings legally about the idea of criminalizing the wearing of medals or claiming a military record if you do not use the false claims to secure financial or personal benefits. I am appalled by such behavior and hardly sympathetic with people like Burton. However, people adopt various false identities on the Internet and in life without engaging in criminal fraud or other crimes. Of course, wearing such uniforms and medals does secure intangible benefits of respect and social standing. Moreover, many of these cases do involve tangible benefits such as travel payments or speaking fees etc. My only concern is with false claims that are confined to parading around or bragging to friends. Could Congress make any claim of false identity from an architect to an anthropologist a crime? Half the pick-up lines in bars would be criminalized.

For the full story, click here.

13 thoughts on “Semper Fraud: Federal Prosecutors Charge Another For “Stolen Valor””

  1. It’s not about trying to pick someone up in a bar. No one is going to prosecute that. It’s about disgracing the memories of all the friends that I have lost in the past seven months. Its about disgracing the sacred moments of a ramp ceremony. It’s about telling my children that the years they have spent going without their mother means nothing because anyone can claim those burdens. Anyone can say “I have made those sacrafices” whether it is true or not.

    Well anyone can make those claims, but first you have to join the military.

    There is no twelve week period of intense physical and psychological testing for architects. There is no leaving your family behind because your president did or did not mislead congress. There is no living for months on end literally watching your back and gaurding your friends while they get a few hours sleep so they can get up and do the same for you, for accountants. (Disbursers not included)

    That is why it should be a federal crime to parade around and make false claims of valor, finacial gain or no. Because to do otherwise is to cheapen the service and sacrafice of those of us who have the courage and fortitude to actually do it.


  2. Get bent! Don’t you DARE compare the service of the military with architect to an anthropologist as a crime. The sacrifices made in BLOOD AND LIVES are far different. You’re demeaning the value and cheapening it by comparing it to non-combat related jobs where you’re not risking your life every day, or having to be away from your family for years at a time, or any of the other sacrifices the military make every day.

    If it is illegal for someone in a federal job to wear their uniform improperly, then why on earth is it legal for someone who isn’t authorized to wear a uniform AT ALL?

    You need to stick to reporting facts and stop trying to think on your own. The point isn’t about whether or not someone profits from it. It’s the principle of the matter of respect! Something that is seriously lacking in our society today. I personally bled in the uniform and friends of mine died in it. Why don’t you think about being in those shoes before you start talking about something you have no clue about.

  3. I served in Vietnam..USMC ..Marble Mt mag16: 1968-69;;HMM361/H&MS-16/Zulu company: ..I never knew how many medals
    I had until I filed disibilty claims with the VA in 2004:about 8 to be exact,,
    I meet a lot of vets at my VA clinic,,the ones making all the noise in the waiting room, probably didn’t see combat,,the ones that answer when I ask them where they were in Nam..they say “Everywhere”..probably didn’t set foot in country
    ..and one even wanted me to sign a letter that I saw him in country..another told me that he was aboard a ship that stored agent orange in barrels and he help unloaded them at a particular port near Da Nang..I knew for a fact , that wasn’t where AO was being unloaded and sent to the Ranch Hand team…I even asked him what else they mixed with the AO and his response was nothing..wrong!!..they mixed JP4 with it..
    there are so many warrior wanna bees..I guess to get attention or to file for VA claims…personaly I’d rather forget my time in Vietnam.
    This clown who thinks he is Marine probably couldn’t make it through boot camp..much less make it in a combat firefight..
    ..he needs some jail time.

  4. From the false Halls of Montezuma to the real jails of Californee

    I aint fought our Country’s battles not in air or on land or sea…


    Since yesterday was Veteran’s Day, here’s one of my fav melodies of all-time that I never tire of hearing:

  5. One of the biggest chicken hawks I know plays in the string section of the Army band. After boot camp, he was never required to wear fatigues until a concert where everybody had to dress down. He then found that the pattern printed on the fabric was obsolete and he had to get new duds for just the one afternoon.

  6. Buddha:

    I wish my grandfather had been like yours, you are a luckly man.

    Although he did tell me that if you sh . . . in one had and wish in the other, which fills up first?

  7. well, with his level of honesty, this guy must fit in with a lot of bankers. He should get a job on Wall Street. Deceit and unearned rewards are normal.

  8. Buddha,
    As the father of a real Marine Lt. and the son of an fallen Air Force Captain, I agree with your comments entirely. I also agree that just occassionaly assuming the position of being a member of the Armed Forces should not be criminalized, but the repeated, intentional attempt to gain benefits from that fake stature should not be allowed. Kudos to the Navy officer for smoking out this charlatan.

  9. Prof. Turley:

    “Could Congress make any claim of false identity from an architect to an anthropologist a crime?”

    I don’t know about congress but if you practice engineering or architecture without a license or put yourself forth as such you can face state penalties. I don’t know about jail time, but there are stiff fines.

  10. Well if Adolph Hitler can be one of the most decorated corporal’s heck he even went to run a country. Wait, Geo the 2nd kinda of did the same thing but skipped the lower level stuff. So whats the problem here? People scared of competition? He has all of the credentials to be whatever it is he wants to be, he works for a bank for gods sake.

    Buddha good so seen you.

  11. I just don’t get it.

    There was a gal I went to law school with and I’m certain you knew a student just like her if you attended. She was the one who in the middle of first year exams rather openly tries to cheat off everyone around her instead of preparing. When she asked me something I told her what my grandfather told me, “Never trust someone who claims credit for the work of others.”

    Someone should have told this clown that bit of wisdom.

    Hey, chuckles! You don’t do the work, you shouldn’t get the credit. It’s dishonorable and a discredit to men like my uncle who actually was a Marine before shrapnel claimed his life in Viet Nam. It’s dishonorable and a discredit to men like my neighbor’s son who is a recently married Marine currently deployed to Afghanistan. I sincerely hope that you’ll soon be an ex-banker, you untrustworthy glory hounding weenie.

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