A New Mexico man was sentenced last week to six months in prison after pleading guilty to impersonating the status of a combat veteran, and being in possession of controlled firearms.
Anthony Gambino told the Albuquerque federal court that he had falsely claimed to be the recipient of a Marine Corps Combat Action Ribbon and a Purple Heart. The disgustingly cowardly act of impersonating a soldier is so common that it has its own name “stolen valor.”
The falsely claiming decorated combat veteran became a federal crime when the former President Barack Obama signed the Stolen Valor Act of 2013, which states it is “a federal crime for an individual to fraudulently hold oneself out to be a recipient of any of several specified military decorations or medals with the intent to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefits.”
Gambino was strictly prohibited from possessing any firearms or ammunition over a previous conviction over armed robbery. Later, Gambino fraudulently enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps under his brother’s name, and was discharged from the Marine Corps just eight months later after it was discovered he had fraudulently enlisted.
Needless to say, the 45-year-old was never in any combat and was also never awarded the Purple Heart or the Marine Corps Combat Action Ribbon.
Gambino owned his own security company and routinely represented himself as a combat veteran. He produced different commercial videos and photos for his company that he had named Gambino Security Safety Corp. The videos showed him armed with a rifle side arms and handgun.
In 2015, Gambino’s company was contracted by the San Juan County Sheriff’s office to produce a training video for the department’s SWAT team. The sheriff’s office had launched an investigation after it had received information about Gambino’s convictions which had further led to his arrest.
Organizations like the Guardian of Valor, are active in trying to uncover these cases. Anthony Anderson, a decorated Afghanistan war veteran runs the Guardian of Valor website, explained, “We’ve got them to where they’ll just go in the airport to put on a uniform and have people walk up and say ‘Thank you for your service.’” Anderson says. “And then we have those that go as far as to actually steal money from the VA from different organizations.”
Guardian of Valor takes in various tips from the whistleblowers and then launches private investigations.
There are different people who are making false claims about their own military service. Sometimes, they use their own fake ranks to take further advantages of programs and organizations that benefit these veterans.
“It’s like you’re slapping not only us in the face but our fallen comrades too,” Anderson said.