Stolen Valor - Poser Busting
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Poser Busting

Source: Special Operations Community Network
  1. A photo is worth a thousand words. You want to secure a photo of the charlatan wearing unauthorized and unearned awards and accoutrements. This is the core of any Stolen Valor prosecution, and it makes prosecution a slam dunk.

  2. You need to document the crime. A copy of the DD214 that the poser is using is critical, as a DD214 is a Federal document. If it is hacked, or modified in any unauthorized fashion, that act is yet another vital piece of evidence. It is also another separate felony. Copies of orders that are falsified are also good pieces of evidence, as the originals can be located.

  3. You need to get a copy of the genuine DD214 via FOIA. The procedures are detailed on the website. It does not take long to receive a reply from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). A few weeks at most, and often less. Compare this official document with the one that the poser is distributing. Any discrepancies should be obvious. If you need assistance deciphering the abbreviations or acronyms that are used on the DD214, feel free to ask for assistance here on SOCNET.

    • It is possible that a poser will have false information in his military records, and this information can show up on a legit DD214. Demonstrating fakery of this magnitude involves specialized investigation. If you suspect that you have a case like this, SOCNET is a good first place to ask for help. As an example, the fake POW poser CSM Richard Cayton is a prime example of the phenomenon. CSM Cayton was a genuine soldier, a genuine veteran of Vietnam, and a Ranger veteran of Vietnam, in fact, but he somehow felt compelled to embellish his already worthy war record with false claims of POW status and escape. He was busted cold. You can read about the case on the POW Network website.

  4. Once you have the above steps completed, take stock of where you are. If your poser is illegally drawing VA benefits, for example, correspond with the VA Inspector General. Do it in writing, be specific, and request a written reply. Do not be angry if they send you a form letter stating that "no further investigation is warranted." If you know that the poser is fraudulently drawing benefits, that VA investigator just handed their head to you on a platter. If you suspect that the VA IG made a mistake, then patiently and politely reply to the person who signed your letter, and tell them so, and why. Ask them to reconsider their lack of action, and to inform you of their decision in writing.

  5. Gather all materials together into an organized document with tabs for supporting materials. Make duplicate copies. Send a copy to the Assistant US Attorney (AUSA) in the jurisdiction in which the crimes have occurred. These are the folks who will prosecute your poser. Include a cover letter explaining who you are and why you are sending them the information. Politely ask them to review your data and then prosecute the poser under Stolen Valor statutes. There is nothing wrong with including a copy of those statutes in the document, and citing specific clauses and violations in your letter. Be certain to cite specific dates, times, venues, witnesses, and evidence. Finally, ask the AUSA to confirm receipt, and to advise you of their ultimate course of action.

  6. One thing that you must not forget to do is to document how the fraudulent activities of the poser have benefited him. Be specific, and do not shy away from documenting precise dollar amounts. If the benefits are more vague, list them, but emphasize how they harm others. In any case, you need to document how the fraudulent activity of the poser has harmed others. It is not enough, generally, to simply state "so-and-so violated the law." You have to say that much, specifically cite which law, and then wrap it up with statements that make clear that the violations harmed Federal agencies, private firms, and specific individuals.

  7. Finally, when you hit a brick wall, and no one will do anything, you take copies of all of your correspondence with the VA IG, and the AUSA, and anyone else, and you present it to your elected officials. You can find them using for Congressional representatives, and for Senators. Write them a cover letter stating that you referred a case of Stolen Valor to the VA IG or to the AUSA for prosecution and that they failed in their duties. Elected officials have staffers whose entire purpose in life is to handle guys like you. They will review your packet, and if they see that you do indeed have a case, which should be immediately apparent if you have carefully followed the guidance in this post, then you will suddenly start to receive phone calls or emails from AUSA's and VA investigators and other people who previously were blowing you off. This is because the staffers who work for your elected representatives will send them letters asking them for formal replies to inconvenient questions.

  8. Follow your case all the way through to prosecution and sentencing. Post here and on other websites. We will help, and we can, in often magical ways. Also keep the good folks at the POW Network in the loop. They are the real experts at poser busting.

  9. Once everything is said and done, write letters of appreciation or letters of complaint to the bosses of those people who either helped or failed to do their jobs. If a Federal employee receives a letter from someone that is reasoned, calm, and precise, and it details that someone under their supervision failed to do their job, that can be pretty shocking.

Always include the sentence: "Please ensure that a copy of this letter is included in Mr. X's permanent personnel record, and please ensure that his failure to perform his duty is punitively reflected in his next annual personnel evaluation."

Politely ask for a confirmation that these things have in fact happened, and if you do not receive that confirmation, call your buddies on the staff of your elected officials. By this time, you will know them pretty well.

Likewise, if someone does their job, thank them for doing it. Yes, they are getting paid to do their jobs, but we all know that there are tons of federal employees who do the minimum, and get away with it. You just might motivate one of those employees. It is better, in case you do not realize it, to send a letter of praise to the line supervisor of a federal employee, rather than to the employee themselves.