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Man fakes being Marine, faces charges

November 11, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
A Palm Springs man is facing federal charges after allegedly wearing a Marine uniform with an impressive array of medals to his high school reunion, even though he never served in the military.Steven Burton, 39, is charged with the unauthorized wearing of military medals or decorations. According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Burton will surrender Thursday morning.

A picture of Burton apparently taken at a high school reunion this past June shows him wearing a Marine Corps uniform with a number of medals, including the Purple Heart and the Navy Cross, the highest honor bestowed by the Navy.

He also called himself a Lt. Colonel, but the U.S. Attorney's Office says it was all a lie. He was never a Lt. Colonel, never awarded the Purple Heart or Navy Cross, and furthermore, he was never in the Marine Corps.

"It is a violation of federal law to wear certain military decorations without the authority to do so," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Akrotirianakis.

Akrotirianakis says Burton's alleged fraud first came to their attention from information gathered at his high school reunion.

"A classmate of his, who actually has served and now serves in the United States Navy, took a picture together with Mr. Burton and then sent the picture to the FBI being suspicious that he in fact was not a member of the Marine Corps or any branch of the armed forces," said Akrotirianakis.

Burton didn't answer his door Wednesday.

"He is innocent until after a trial, that's all that matters," said a friend of Burton.

At a Wednesday morning ceremony at Riverside National Cemetery, a number of veterans were not at all happy with someone allegedly pretending to be one of them, pretending to have received honors he didn't deserve.

"Just can't find any words to express my distaste for somebody who would do something like that," said Army Lt. Roger Davis.

"There may be more of it going on than we realize. Quite a few politicians have claimed service that they didn't serve, medals they didn't win, unacceptable," said U.S. Navy veteran Capt. Bill Sturman.

The penalty for this crime has gotten stronger since the passage of the Stolen Valor Act of 2005. If convicted, Burton could face up to one year in federal prison.


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