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Phony War Hero Gets 3 Years

Former Soldier Randall Moneymaker has been sentenced to three years in prison for embellishing a brief military career into that of a decorated combat veteran.

Moneymaker is part of the growing problem of “phony war heroes,” across the nation, Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig “Jake” Jacobsen said.

“As the wars drag on in this country, you have more and more wannabes” who make claims of sacrifices never suffered and medals never earned, Jacobsen said. Moneymaker was sentenced on Sept. 5.

Unlike other imposters, who seek only bragging rights or political gain, Moneymaker was motivated mostly by greed, the government contended — making his false claims to collect more than $18,000 in disability and military benefits.

Moneymaker was sentenced Friday by Judge James Turk following a March trial in U.S. District Court in Roanoke. After hearing testimony that Moneymaker made up tales of firefights, Ranger missions and hundreds of parachute jumps, a jury convicted him of six charges of fraud and theft.

“I’m sorry for what I’ve done,” Moneymaker told the judge, apologizing to his family, his country, his fellow soldiers and “anyone else that I’ve done wrong.”

After spending just two years in the Army in the mid-1980s, Moneymaker would later claim to be a decorated Army Ranger with more than 20 years of service that included tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Panama and Grenada.

But during the years when he told of suffering post-traumatic stress disorder from seeing his fellow soldiers killed beside him, Moneymaker was actually attending college and working in the telecommunications field.

And the scars on his back that he attributed to shrapnel wounds were actually the result of liposuction, federal prosecutors said.

Moneymaker was “someone who obtained respect, sympathy and benefits based on the sacrifices and the blood of other veterans who went through what he claimed he went through but didn’t,” Jacobsen said.

Although Moneymaker wore Ranger badges and a Purple Heart he never earned, the charges he was convicted of were limited to the paperwork he filled out to receive benefits from the U.S. Army and Veterans Affairs.

The charges included five counts of making false statements on forms he filed or in claims he made while applying for disability benefits or inquiring about a military pension. He also was charged with theft for receiving $18,449.32 in disability payments to which he was not entitled.

Moneymaker, a 44-year-old who now lives in North Carolina, was ordered to pay that amount back to the government, plus another $600.

Choosing not to testify at his trial or his sentencing, Moneymaker spoke only when asked by the judge if he had anything to say just before his punishment was announced. Looking across the courtroom, he apologized to Jacobsen, who as a veteran of the war in Iraq has said he takes the case especially seriously.

Defense attorney C.J. Covati questioned Jacobsen’s statement that Moneymaker’s crimes were among the worst he has seen in his 17 years as a federal prosecutor.

“To say that it’s one of the worst ever is to let moral indignation get a little bit ahead of the facts in this case,” Covati said.

Following Friday’s hearing, Moneymaker was allowed to remain free on bond until he is ordered to report to prison, which Covati said will probably be in two or three months.

© Copyright 2008 Roanoke Times & World News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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