TAMPA — A man accused of posing as a highly decorated war veteran faces federal charges of falsely wearing heroic medals of honor.
Angel Manuel Ocasio-Reyes, 48, was charged under the Stolen Valor Act.
Ocasio-Reyes faces three counts: falsely wearing medals authorized by Congress, falsely representing himself to have been awarded the decorations and medals, and falsely altering a military discharge form. The maximum punishment is a year in prison and a $100,000 fine for each count.
Ocasio-Reyes could not be reach for comment.
This is the fourth time in 12 months someone has been prosecuted under the Stolen Valor Act by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Middle District of Florida, spokeswoman Amy Filjones said.
The charges followed reports by ABC Action News that Ocasio-Reyes went to American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts throughout the Tampa Bay area boasting of his military accomplishments and wearing myriad medals including a Purple Heart and a Navy Cross. Reporter Alan Cohn confronted Ocasio-Reyes on camera and asked if he knew about the Stolen Valor Act.
"I'm not faking," Ocasio-Reyes responded.
Federal prosecutors say he used false paperwork to join groups, including the Marine Corps League in New Port Richey, where Roger Golden is commandant.
"He was a con man. He fooled everybody. He came in dressed to the hilt. Everybody took him in like he was a long-lost child," said Golden, who served in Vietnam from 1963 to 1967. "This irks me that somebody would do something like that. It is embarrassing to the Marine Corps and a slap in the face of the people who earn the eagle, globe and anchor," the Marines' symbol.
Golden said he also lent Ocasio-Reyes $42 that hasn't been repaid.
The case roils military members making sacrifices.
"It obviously is sad that someone would have personal issues and feel that they could wear something that a lot of people have paid the ultimate price for," said Lt. Col. Joe Kloppel, spokesman at U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base. "Someone to wear those, it shows they don't have any understanding of what sacrifices are."
The Stolen Valor Act was passed in 2006 and imposed harsher penalties on congressional medal counterfeiters. Previous law only provided provisions for people falsely wearing the Medal of Honor.
News researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Jared Leone can be reached at (813) 226-3435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.