A man has been found guilty of faking his veteran status and stealing nearly $17,000 from an American Legion post in Scranton, Pennsylvania, according to copies of court records and local news reports.
The Lackawanna County district attorney’s office filed stolen valor charges against Christopher Crawford, 31, in late January, but the man was arrested over the summer for theft.
Crawford was accused of stealing from American Legion Post 568 by using the post’s debit cards to make unauthorized purchases, including ATM withdrawals in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in June to spend at casinos.
“The conduct alleged in this case — masquerading as a combat veteran in order to infiltrate and steal funds from an American Legion post — is breathtakingly brazen and unprecedented in my almost 30 years of practicing criminal law in Lackawanna County," said the county’s district attorney, Mark Powell. "It’s an affront to every veteran.”
Crawford claimed to be a combat veteran wounded by an improvised explosive device when he was actually discharged under “other than honorable conditions” after he went absent without leave during basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, in July 2007, detectives said in an arrest affidavit.
He used the veteran status to earn the position of Post 568′s executive officer, where he managed memberships and recruitment, according to the Scranton Times-Tribune.
Members of Post 568 testified against Crawford, claiming in court that they noticed there was something wrong when checks started to bounce in August, reported Fox 56.
“What he did [was] wrong, I mean the stolen valor thing. It angers me more than even the theft," Sean O’Shea, commander of Post 568, told the news station. “So I was confident taking the stand and saying what I had to say."
The judge found Crawford guilty on all 11 charges including nine felonies and two misdemeanors associated with Pennsylvania’s stolen valor laws, Fox 56 reported.
Pennsylvania made it a third-degree misdemeanor in June 2017 to falsify military service or wear unearned military decorations, but only if it’s being done to obtain money, property or other benefits.
Crawford will be sentenced in the coming months.