Military impostors, beware: A Web site has been launched to root out fraudulent veterans and fakers in fatigues.
ReportStolenValor.org aims to expose people who fabricate or embellish military accomplishments by making it easier to report suspected Stolen Valor Act offenders to federal authorities and local media outlets.
AMVETS, an organization representing more than 250,000 veterans, unveiled the site Friday.
“As a veteran myself, it’s deeply offensive when someone claims to have served in uniform when they have not,” said Jay Agg, AMVET’s national communication director. “It’s just fundamentally wrong and an affront to all veterans.”
The Web site also features a link to the Military Times Hall of Valor, a comprehensive database of more than 26,000 military awards for valor searchable by service member, award and conflict.
The Stolen Valor Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in December 2006, amended the provisions of previous laws concerning unauthorized usage, manufacture or sale of military decorations and medals. A violation of the law is a federal misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and a $150,000 fine.
“What we’re doing is creating awareness of this crime,” Agg said. “We think it’ll be a very good deterrent for those contemplating stealing the valor of others.”
Aside from violating federal law, Agg said, the “real harm” when someone impersonates a veteran is the lasting effect on how the public views former and current service members.
“It creates a shadow of doubt, it casts suspicion on them,” he said. “It automatically puts members of the public on high alert for stolen valor, so every veteran is looked at more critically when they go out in public.”
Impersonators could also rob genuine veterans of sought-after speaking engagements and cost American taxpayers large amounts of money if the individual seeks assistance from federal programs.
“When the phonies are given speaking engagements, those are opportunities that could be going to a real veteran who earned those awards,” Agg said. “In some cases, they’re trying to defraud the [U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs] and the government out of benefits that should be going to other veterans.”
The new Web site also provides links to reports of six individuals accused of falsifying, embellishing or altogether fabricating their military histories, including Richard Glen Strandlof, the first person to be charged in Colorado under the Stolen Valor Act.
Strandlof, 32, will reportedly be released to a halfway house pending an upcoming trial on charges that he made bogus claims about being a decorated veteran. Strandlof pleaded not guilty last month, the Denver Post reported. He will remain in federal custody until Dec. 15, when a bed is expected to become available at a local halfway house.
FBI Special Agent Darrell Foxworth, a spokesman for the agency’s San Diego office, told FoxNews.com that federal officials are aware of allegations pertaining to another impostor who posed as a two-star Marine general at a Veterans of Foreign Wars celebration last month in Ramona, Calif.
Foxworth declined to confirm or deny an investigation into the alleged impostor, David Weber, who offered no explanation to the Marine Corps Times as to why he misrepresented himself as a retired general officer.
“I, mentally, was in bad shape,” Weber told the paper.
Agg said he hopes the new Web site gives potential poseurs some pause when considering the “extraordinarily distasteful” act of faking a military background.
“It really puts them on notice that major veteran groups are aware of this problem and are doing something about it,” he said. “It’s an issue of great interest, not just to the military community, but to the public at large."