Colorado Congressman
John Salazar
Introduces 
Stolen Valor Act of 2005

 

 

July 22, 2005

CONGRESSMAN SALAZAR: “PENALIZE PHONIES NOW” 

 

Salazar Introduces “Stolen Valor Act” to Penalize Medal Frauds

 

WASHINGTON,  DC – Congressman John T. Salazar (CO-3), the only veteran from the Colorado delegation, today announced the introduction of the “Stolen Valor Act”, legislation to penalize distributors of phony medals and those who fraudulently claim to be decorated veterans.  Salazar’s legislation would place criminal penalties on those who falsely claim to have risked their lives for our country, restoring honor to those who have truly earned it.

 “Medals recognize the best American qualities – courage, honor, and sacrifice,” said Salazar. “These honors are reserved for those who willingly risked their lives for our country.  The Medal of Honor is our nation’s highest military honor.  And the Purple Heart is only awarded for genuine acts of courage. It is our job to protect the honor and integrity of our veterans, to make sure the memory of their heroism is not tarnished.”

B.G. Burkett’s award winning book “Stolen Valor” first exposed the problem of medals fraud.  Current law only allows prosecution of imposters who wear an unearned Medal of Honor on their person. Salazar’s legislation will expand the law to include those who publicly claim to be decorated veterans, allowing the Federal Bureau of Investigation to finally prosecute several high profile cases (see attached profiles.)

  “Shame on those who claim credit for acts of courage they did not commit, their lies are criminal” said Salazar. “Medal recipients are often too humble to parade their honors. By letting the phonies continue their masquerade, we diminish the honor of our true heroes. Federal law enforcement agents are willing to go after these frauds, Congress needs to provide the tools necessary to get the job done.”

Salazar’s legislation is the direct result of the efforts of Pam and Doug Sterner of  Pueblo and Medal of Honor recipient Peter Lemon of  Colorado Springs. The city of  Pueblo in Salazar’s congressional district was designated “America’s Home of Heroes” by Congress, because it is home to more Medal of Honor recipients than elsewhere in the country.

  FRAUDS GOING FREE

Judge Michael O'Brien,  Illinois

Illinois District Judge Michael O’Brien displayed two Medals of Honor in a frame on the wall of his courtroom. Everyone in his city believed their judge was not only an honorable man of the judicial profession, but one of  America ’s greatest heroes.

O’Brien’s fraud was discovered when he tried to apply for Medal of Honor license plates for his vehicle. Illinois provides valid Medal of Honor recipients with distinctive license plates for their personal vehicles. When Judge O’Brien applied for his Medal of Honor plates for himself, someone at the Department of Motor Vehicles happened to contact a true recipient and learned O’Brien was a fraud.

O’Brien’s lies were subsequently exposed but he avoided prosecution. While it is against the law to manufacture, wear, buy, sell, or trade the Medal of Honor, it is not a criminal offense to possess one or display it on your wall.

“We couldn’t prosecute O’Brien under federal law because he wasn’t actually wearing the Medal, which is illegal for an impostor to do,” explains FBI agent Tom Cottone.

Lawrence Hammer,  Florida

Lawrence Hammer claims to be a former Navy Seal who won the Medal of Honor for being shot twice in  Vietnam .  Not only did he use his claims and falsified records to gain employment and health care, he went on to con $45,000 from a widow he met at the Bay Pines VA Medical Center.

In the words of the widow:

“I am a VA employee at Bay Pines VA Medical Center, Bay Pines. Mr. Hammer was a patient and a CWT worker at this hospital when I met him. I was widowed 3/3/01 and Mike knew about the time I spent taking care of my husband before he died… he took me for over $45,000… 

“I have since had contact with a Susan in  Savannah who told me he did exactly the same thing to her. He also did this to a woman in South Carolina named Krissy, who had his arrested for domestic violence, she was beaten and choked by this man… he told me and many people here at the VA that he was trained to kill in the Seals and had already killed a man who molested his daughter, but according to his father, he’s never been married or had kids. This man is a predator and I want to see him exposed before any more women are taken in by him.”

Hammer falsified records claiming to be a decorated veteran and used that status to con the government and unsuspecting women – but he cannot be prosecuted because he did not display medals on his person.

Gilbert Velasquez (AZ)

In 2004, a small paper in  Arizona ran a two-full-page story of local "hero" Gilbert Velasquez, who claimed to have participated in the “Blackhawk Down” mission and the capture of Saddam Hussein. 

The article featured a front-page photo with Velasquez holding multiple awards including TWO Silver Stars, Legion of Merit, Bronze Stars, Purple Hearts. Despite holding the photo of these medals he claims or telling a reporter his DSC was buried with his godfather—and despite gut-wrenching "war stories" of combat, lost buddies, and personal heroics – this man cannot be prosecuted under current law.

 

 

MOH RECIPIENT QUOTES
From Recent News Stories on this Bill

''Somebody else wearing a medal and they didn't earn it. That's defrauding people who've earned it,'' said George Sakato, 84, of Denver who received the Medal of Honor for his acts of courage in World War II. For Sakato, who is Japanese-American and was originally awarded the Army Distinguished Service Cross, he said being upgraded to a Medal of Honor about fifty years later in 2000 was the most meaningful days of his life. That he said, is what makes what the posers do all that more despicable. ''It's not right. It's just not right,'' he said. (Associated Press)

"That should be against the law," says former Navy corpsman George Wahlen of Roy, Utah's only living recipient of the Medal of Honor who also was awarded three purple hearts in World War II. "It's something that is a personal thing. It shouldn't be sold." (Salt Lake City Tribune)

 

Please Sign Our
Online Petition

  

James Fields (Left) regaled the audience in Chillicothe, MO, on veterans day with tales of his heroism that earned him a Navy Cross for heroism in Vietnam while serving under Lt. Col. Oliver North. The same day in St. Louis, Michael Wielbacher showed up for the Marine Corps Birthday Ball wearing the Navy Cross and Distinguished Service Medal, along with a two Silver Stars with "V", four Bronze, and more. Both were bogus heroes. Wielbacher is prosecutable but Fields is NOT (he was wearing a Navy Cross PIN, not the Medal. Both are exposed in this excellent report from the St. Louis Fox Affiliate.

Watch the Video Report of these "American Heroes"

Video Archives from Last Year's Stolen Valor Stories

CNN

Channel 13 - Pueblo

FOX NEWS - GREAT!!

FOX 31 - Talk Show

MORE Video Reports are available in our NEWS SECTION

Note: While journalists do not endorse legislation in order to maintain impartiality, we are pleased to share with you the following congratulatory remarks by a leader in American news broadcasting: 

"I congratulate Congressman Salazar for getting on this case and I am with him all the way." 
Bob Schieffer, CBS Evening News 

Stolen Valor Act of 2005
H.R. 3352 & S. 1998

.

News

Read/Download the Policy Analysis Paper that is the basis for this legislation.

Policy Analysis
Webpage

Policy Analysis
WORD Doc.

Policy Analysis
WORD PDF

Contact Congressman Salazar

John T. Salazar (CO-3) SPONSOR
111 Members of Congress Co-Sponsoring This Bill in the House
(Sorted By State & District)

(AL-5) Robert Bud Cramer 
(AR-1) Marion Berry  
(AR-4) Mike Ross 
(AZ-7) Raul Grijalva  
(CA-1) Mike Thompson 
(CA-8) Nancy Pelosi
(CA-15 Mike Honda 
(CA-18) Dennis Cardoza 
(CA-20) Jim Costa 
(CA-29) Adam Schiff 
(CA-33) Diane Watson 
(CA-38) Grace Napolitano 
(CA-43) Joe Baca 
(CA-51) Bob Filner 
(CO-2) Mark Udall 
(
FL-2) Allen Boyd  
(FL-17) Kendrick Meek 
(FL-23) Alcee Hastings  
(GA-3) Jim Marshall  
(GA-12) John Barrow  
(GU)  Madeleine Bordallo
((HI-2) Ed Case  
(IA-3) Leonard Boswell 
(IL-4) Luis Gurierrez  
(IL-5) Rahm Emanuel 
(IN-7) Julia Carson  
(KS-3) Dennis Moore  
.(KY-6) Ben Chandler  
(LA-3) Charlie Melancon
(MD-4) Albert Wynn
(MD-5) Steny Hoyer  
(ME-1) Thomas Allen 
(ME-2) Michael Michaud
(MI-5) Dale Kildee
(MI-14) John Conyers
(MN-7) Colin Peterson  
(MS-4) Gene Taylor  
(NC-7) Mike McIntyre  
(ND) Earl Pomeroy  
(NJ-9) Steven Rothman
(
NJ-13) Robert Mendez (NM-3) Tom Udall  
(NV-1) Shelly Berkley
(NY-2) Steve Israel  
(NY-4) Carolyn McCarthy 
(NY-12 )Nydia Velazquez  
(NY-16) Jose Serrano  
(NY-22) Maurice Hinchey
(OH-6) Ted Strickland  
(OH-13) Sherrod Brown  
(OH-17) Tim Ryan  
(OK-2) Dan Boren  
(OR-5) Darlene Hooley  
(PA-17) Tim Holden  
(SD) Stephanie Herseth  
(TN-4) Lincoln Davis  
(TN-5) Jim Cooper  
(TN-6) Bart Gordon 
(TN-8) John Tanner  
(TN-9) Harold Ford  
(TX-15) Ruben Hinojosa  
(TX-16) Silvestre Reyes  
(TX-20) Charles Gonzalez
 (TX-25) Lloyd Doggett  
(TX-27) Solomon Ortiz  
(TX-28) Henry Cuellar  
(TX-29) Gene Green  
(TX-30) Eddie B. Johnson
(UT-3) Jim Matheson  
(WA-3) Brian Baird  
(WA-7) Jim McDermott
(WA-9) Adam Smith  
(WV-3) Nick Rahall  
.
NOTE: ALL SIX Representatives from Kentucky, including members of BOTH parties, have signed on as co-sponsors for this bill. Way to go KENTUCKY.


(AL-6) Spencer Bachus
(AZ-1) Rick Renzi
(CA-41) Jerry Lewis
(CA-44) Ken Calvert
(CO-4) Marilyn Musgrave
(CO-6) Tom Tancredo  
CO-7) Bob Beauprez
(CT-2) Rob Simmons
(IL-16) Donald Manzullo
(IN-4) Steve Buyer
(IN-5) Dan Burton
(IN-8) John Hostettler
(KY-1) Ed Whitfield 
(KY-2) Ron Lewis  
(KY3) Anne Northup  
(KY-4) Geoff Davis  
(KY-5) Harold Rogers  
(LA-5) Rodney Alexander
(MI-8) Mike Rogers
(MI-11) Thaddeus McCotter
(MN-2) John Kline  
(MO-6) Sam Graves
(NC-8) Robin Hayes
(NE-1) Jeff Fortenberry
(NE-2) Lee Terry
(NJ-4) Christopher Smith
(NJ-5) Scott Garrett
(NJ-7) Mike Ferguson
(NY-13) Vito Fossella
NY-19) Sue Kelly
(NY-24) Sherwood Boehlert
(NY-29) John Randy Kuhl  
(PA-3) Phil English  
(TN-3) Zach Wamp
(TX-2) Ted Poe 
(TX-23) Henry Bonilla
(VA-10) Frank Wolf
(WI-8) Mark Green

Kent Conrad (ND) - Sponsor
26 SENATE Co-SPONSORS
S 1998 SENATE VERSION of Stolen Valor:
PASSED SENATE September 7

(AR) Mark Pryor
(AR) Blanche Lincoln
(CO) Ken Salazar 
(CT) Joseph Lieberman
(HI) Daniel Inouye
(NE) Benjamin Nelson  
(NJ) Frank Lautenberg  
(NM) Jeff Bingaman 
(NY) Hillary Clinton
(SD) Tim Johnson  
(WV) John Rockefeller  
(WV) Robert Byrd 

(AK) Ted Stevens
CO) Wayne Allard  
(GA) Johnny Isakson  
(GA) Saxby Chambliss 
(KS) Pat Roberts
(LA) David Vitter  
(MT) Conrad Burns  
(NC) Elizabeth Dole  
(NE) Chuck Hagel
(PA) Arlen Specter
(PA) Rick Santorum  
(SD) John Thune
(WY) Thomas Craig
(WY) Michael Enzi

ENDORSEMENTS

Other Medal of Honor and/or Veteran Related Legislation

H. Res. 297
National Medal of Honor Day

NEW G.I.
Bill of Rights

H. RES. 404
Honoring
Adm. Jim Stockdale

Doug or Pam Sterner may be contacted at: (719) 564-1755 or by Email:  Pam Sterner  -  Doug Sterner

To more fully understand the depth of this problem Please Visit
The P.O.W. Network

 

 

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