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Old 20 April 2009, 17:17
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Poser Busting

Some notes on poser busting. Any corrections, observations, or additions, chime in here. Thanks.

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 www.archives.gov 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.

3a. 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 www.house.gov for Congressional representatives, and www.senate.gov 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.
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Last edited by magician; 28 August 2009 at 04:06. Reason: Added links, added additional guidance.
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Old 21 April 2009, 10:39
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Good points, bro.
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Old 23 April 2009, 00:55
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Thanks, brother.

Anyone, feel free to add or explicate the above.

It is high time that we get more systematic and organized in our poser busting.

I particularly want to address our issues with follow-through. Too often, we take a bust to a certain point, and then we forget about it, or otherwise drop the ball, and the poser is permitted to slink away and hide, leaving only slime in his wake.

I want to start logging prosecutions.
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Old 23 April 2009, 21:39
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Maybe a 'Hall of Shame' could be started?
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Old 23 April 2009, 21:56
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Originally Posted by wandering_idiot View Post
Maybe a 'Hall of Shame' could be started?
Hmmm, that does have merit. Not saying it will happen, but it gives us (Admin's) something to think about.
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Old 23 April 2009, 22:55
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Hmmm, that does have merit. Not saying it will happen, but it gives us (Admin's) something to think about.
ALCON,

I agree, the SEALs have a good example to follow on their poser web site. I think we need to make double dog (Hell, even triple dog) sure that we have a good vetting process prior to taking it to an official channel. I agree with the Magician, we need a process that either leads to an apology and cease and desist or a sanction for those who continue to pose.

Keep in mind we had a few close calls here where in the last month where folks (me included) thought someone was a poser and they turned out to be legit, maybe on the fringe, but still legit.

My $.02
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Old 23 April 2009, 23:48
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.......I think we need to make double dog (Hell, even triple dog) sure that we have a good vetting process prior to taking it to an official channel......
OK, I think you're jumping left, while we are looking right. No one spoke of anything that SOCNET is planning to do on an official basis. The guidance above is for individuals and how to conduct themselves. The part about the wall of shame goes without saying that the folks shown are bona fide posers.
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Old 24 April 2009, 07:11
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I think that poser busts that satisfy steps 1 through 3 listed above could be posted.

Explicitly, those busts which are confirmed with indisputable photographs of the perpetrator, or when we have faked DD214's or fraudulent orders in hand, which are then compared against genuine DD214's received via FOIA.

The primary issue in posting posers is the risk of lawsuit or libel. If we have the goods on the perpetrators, and if the evidence is indisputable, I see no risk of libel or lawsuit.

And I think that under those conditions, we should absolutely post a hall of shame, and we should embarrass and humiliate those slimeballs who are thieves of valor.

We should show them no mercy, and we should issue press releases when we add new ones. We should become a public resource for poser busting, in concert with the POW Network and others engaged in exposing charlatans, and we should serve as a source for journalists and for prosecutors.

It is clear to me that Stolen Valor statutes are rarely used. Too many posers are NOT prosecuted, despite clear and indisputable evidence, and I am sick of it.

We should create a hall of shame, we should manage our case load and use the hall of shame as a central repository of data pertaining to cases, and we should hound federal authorities in their jurisdictions to prosecute fakes.

We should get more systematic about this, and we should stop dropping the ball on these assholes.

Just my opinion.
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Last edited by magician; 24 April 2009 at 09:19.
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Old 8 June 2009, 16:16
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Just updated the post with links and additional information.
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Old 3 September 2009, 20:01
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Magician,

A couple of comments: I also belong to the Special Operations War list on Yahoo and we get a bunch of poser enquiries there as well.

The problem with legit DD-214s (and even official orders) is that they're not always reliable. I understand that even the POW network people sometimes have problems with DD-214s with errors. Mine has several errors, but nothing serious - they left off the ASI on my primary MOS and didn't even mention my secondary. But that's not as serious as this: I was awarded a Silver Star in Vietnam. As a matter of fact, I was "awarded" 2 Silver Stars - both for the same action! One was issued by my major command (9th ID) and was in an Inf blue holder with the 9th ID patch centered on the front. I don't recall who issued the other one, but it was in an Army Green holder with the US Army Seal on the front. About a month or so later, I received a set of orders rescinding the second one. Now, all three orders are legitimate (and verifiable), so if I had the mindset of a poser, I could make up a real good story about how my SS number was for a classified mission, or that my platoon and I occasionally worked as my Brigade Commander's personal unofficial LRRP platoon [true - the 9th LRP/Rgr teams were tasked to the Div G-2/3, and both Col Hank "Gunfighter" Emerson and Col "Mal Hombre" Gerasy (sp?) hated to go to DIV to ask for LRRP assets] and one time he sent us over the border into Cambodia to snatch a PAVN General but MACV found out and rescinded our awards, yadda, yadda....

The only poser I've caught was a guy who subscribed to the online edition of our home town newspaper using the Ranger tab as his avatar. So I friended him and said, "Hey brother! I graduated from Ranger 9-69. What class were you in?" and not only did he not reply, he never again posted under that screen name and avatar, so I think it's safe to assume that he wasn't legit.

I know enought about Vietnam LRRPs to ask questions and I know enough past and present members of the Regiment to pass along any dubious claims, and I can spot an EOD poser at 50 meters, but when it comes to SEALs, Marine Recon, etc., I know enough to ask a couple of questions and then pass it along....
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Old 4 September 2009, 05:50
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You make a valid observation about the accuracy of DD214's.

They are useful, however, when they depict service in regular army units, and regular army MOS's, when the claimant cites service in elite units, as is commonly the case.

When you send a FOIA request for service records to NARA, they often reply back with excerpts from the DD214, and an excerpt from the DA Forms 2 and 2-1. They do not violate the Privacy Act, but they do often provide enough information to debunk the claims of the typical poser.
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Last edited by magician; 5 September 2009 at 03:05.
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Old 5 September 2009, 04:28
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Originally Posted by magician View Post
You make a valid observation about the accuracy of DD214's.

They are useful, however, when they depict service in regular army units, and regular army MOS's, when the claimant cites service in elite units, as is commonly the case.

When you send a FOIA request for service records to NARA, they often reply back with excerpts from the DD214, and an excerpt from the DA Form 2 and 2-1. They do not violate the Privacy Act, but they do often provide enough information to debunk the claims of the typical poser.
This is true. I haven't looked at my Form 2 for a while, but as I recall, it's complete. Mind, the "rest of the story" for me is that I got caught up in the '75 post-Vietnam RIF (the so-called "RA" RIF). I was stationed at MDW at the time, so it's understandable that mistakes were made on my 214.

For that matter, the double Silver Star for the same operation because of inter-governmental politics. May of '68 - the May Offensive, Second Tet, Second Battle of Saigon, or what have you. happened because my platoon and I (along with a Mech Inf platoon) rescued a company of ARVN Infantry after they drove(!) into a PAVN ambush in a fortified village in the Delta just south of Saigon. As I heard the story later from some fellow members of the WPPA, I was put in for a BS, but the Viets had put me in for a Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star, and the US Army couldn't let the Viets oneup them, eh? Which is why I got one award of the SS from MACV and the other from the 9th ID. Then some strap hanging paper pusher realized what had been done and issued orders rescinding the 2d award. (no offense meant, Remington. I've done my share of being a staff rat and I always made sure to make nice to clerk typists and other "paper pushers". (been one, done that and got the candy stripe ribbon to prove it).
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Old 1 February 2010, 20:15
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Magician asked me to repost this here for comment, it came from a PM between the two of us.

What I wanted to know about was how to do the actual FOIA request for someone's DD-214?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JLM
Okay, got a couple questions:

Found this on the NARA website:

http://www.archives.gov/research/ord...d-form-180.pdf

The SF-180. Can I fill this out and just put "FOIA" under section III or do I have to write a FOIA request letter?

Thanks!
So gents, can you just write "FOIA" on a SF-180 and be good to go?

Thanks!
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Old 10 February 2010, 10:52
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Gentlemen,

I also need for assistance on this matter. I'm currently working with an individual by the name of Richard Castro that keeps telling his peers that he is a former Delta (CAG) operator. I know by his demeanor and lack of skills that he is in no way part of th teams. If you know of this person being in Special operations please feel free to post an answer. Thanks
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Old 10 February 2010, 15:49
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JLM View Post
Magician asked me to repost this here for comment, it came from a PM between the two of us.

What I wanted to know about was how to do the actual FOIA request for someone's DD-214?



So gents, can you just write "FOIA" on a SF-180 and be good to go?

Thanks!
Yes.
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Old 11 February 2010, 11:07
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FOIA - Form 180

NATIONAL PERSONNEL RECORDS CENTER

MILITARY PERSONNEL RECORDS

9700 PAGE AVENUE

ST. LOUIS, MO 63132-5100

GENEALOGICAL AND PUBLIC ACCESS TO RECORDS*

3. Releasable Information. Under the provisions of the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act], as amended in 1974, only the following items can ROUTINELY BE RELEASED FROM THE RECORD to a member of the general public:



Name
Age (date of birth)
Dates of service
Source of commission
Rank/grade and date attained
Marital status
Promotion sequence number
Salary*
Office phone number*
City/town and state of last known address and date of this address
Serial/service number (those issued prior to the use of the social security number as the service number)
Decorations and awards
Place of birth; date and geographical location of death; and place of burial+


Military and civilian education level
Photograph (or photocopy if only one photo is available)
Place of induction and separation
Duty assignments (including geographical location)
Dependents (including name, sex, and age)
records of court-martial trial (unless classified)
education/schooling (military)
future assignments which have been finalized*
duty status#
* These items obviously relate to active duty personnel and are not likely to be found in the records at this Center.

# For records at this Center this generally means discharged or retired.

+ If person is deceased, these items also may generally be released.


NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION *NA FORM 13043 (REV. 5-94

POW NETWORK NOTE:

A FORM 180 [REQUEST PERTAINING TO MILITARY RECORDS] AND A WRITTEN FOIA REQUEST IS USUALLY REQUIRED TO GET ANY RECORDS.

FULL RECORDS CAN BE OBTAINED IF THE INDIVIDUAL CLAIMING POW [OR SEAL OR SPECIAL FORCES] SIGNS THE FORM 180. IF the individual DOES NOT sign the form, only the above information noted in RED will be released if available.

FORM 180 - http://www.archives.gov/facilities/m..._form_180.html


Downloaded: 02/22/2010
From: POWNETWORK - http://www.pownetwork.org/phonies/phonies3.htm
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Old 12 February 2010, 07:26
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Originally Posted by Socshooter View Post
Gentlemen,

I also need for assistance on this matter. I'm currently working with an individual by the name of Richard Castro that keeps telling his peers that he is a former Delta (CAG) operator. I know by his demeanor and lack of skills that he is in no way part of th teams. If you know of this person being in Special operations please feel free to post an answer. Thanks
Please have a glance at some of the poser busts underway in the SF and the Army Special Ops forums, and then start a new thread regarding Mr. Castro.

I would advise that you have something more than "his demeanor and lack of skills" to share. We feed on detail.

Thanks.

And Clay....thanks for the assist, brother.

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Last edited by magician; 12 February 2010 at 07:28.
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Old 13 February 2010, 17:55
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Just a note with some details being missed after doing this for 10 years.

To PROVE a case, you need more than a DD214.

Your FOIA cover letter is needed to spell out the details of what you are looking for. Unless you ASK, you will not receive. Ask for:

* Duty assignments,
* Geographical locations,
* Rank (promotions and demotions)
* Training,
* Citation text (text of award citations)
* Punitive actions like courts martial, article 15's, etc.

You also MUST provide more identifiers than JUST name and a guess at his DoB. A service number is just about mandatory. What one believes is a rare name - isn't!

Wording makes a difference. On these cases use "claims" (i.e. "Claims Army, Vietnam," or "Claims sniper, SEAL.") That way on the off chance that he WAS a real Marine cook--you will get the record. If you state that he was Army, Vietnam, sniper, SEAL, and there is no exact match to that--you get zilch in most cases.

Media coverage will do more than a Congressman's office. The guys getting busted are the guys highlighted around the globe in the paper or on mil blogs.

When Cayton was exposed - the case was already seven years old. All wheeling and dealing had been done behind closed doors - no docket notes, no court. Until the articles on him, his victims had no idea what a "hero" he really was.

Barnhart, indicted a few weeks ago - was turned in to the FBI FOUR YEARS ago. Last weeks indictment of Gary Amster in Florida - two YEARS ago. Media moves up the clock. McMannus was posted last month. Mil blogs helped and he has already been arrested.

Suggestions for the case file: PDF or printscreen EVERYTHING.

"Saving" the webpage does nothing down the line if the website is no longer online. The graphics are gone and "Wayback" may not have it archived.

Save any and every contact.

Remember direct confrontation can be used against you and liars simply lie more. You want prosecution in a criminal case--skipping the confrontation can be beneficial. Let law enforcement knock on the door.

Also realize there are TWO channels for prosecution. Be sure that you know which way the case must go.

FBI does Stolen Valor.

The VA IG only handles cases of theft from the VA.

The VAIG can't do a thing if the guy doesn't receive VA care or have a disability claim.

And then there is the "does he claim" that he gets $$$ for PTSD? Or do you know that he gets $$$ for PTSD and that he never left the states?

Same for the FBI:

* Pictures of him wearing medals?
* PDF of internet sites with his bio?
* Video/audio of him speaking at a school/church/parade?
* AND forged federal records to prove that he's a liar?

Better too much than not enough.

Happy hunting.

Last edited by magician; 13 July 2011 at 15:37. Reason: Edited for clarity and emphasis.
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Old 14 February 2010, 10:35
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Originally Posted by pownet View Post
Just a note with some details being missed after doing this for 10 years.

Better too much than not enough. Happy hunting.
Outa my lane a bit. However, let me vett pownet. I have worked with pownet for many years and pownet is the premier go-to function for identifying military service. I saw pownet's Intro yesterday and placed a query to them to insure it came from the owners of the POW Net.

Follow pownet's guidelines and you will end up with a satisfactory result.

POW link:


http://www.pownetwork.org/phonies/list_of_names.htm

Cass

Last edited by Cass; 14 February 2010 at 10:37.
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Old 14 February 2010, 15:14
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Thank you, Mr. Cass.

And pownet...thank you for your comments, and welcome aboard.
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