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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Texas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, June 23, 2022

Tyler Man Guilty of Using Stolen Valor to Defraud Investors

TYLER, Texas – A Tyler man has pleaded guilty to federal charges in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston today. 

Derek Robert Hamm, 38, pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering, violating the Stolen Valor Act, using a fraudulent military discharge certificate, and being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition.  The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 makes it illegal to fraudulently wear medals, embellish rank, or make false claims of military service to obtain money, employment, property, or some other tangible benefit.  As part of the plea agreement, Hamm agreed to pay restitution of at least $2.3 million and forfeiture of the proceeds of his criminal conduct, including jewelry, automobiles, and cash proceeds in the amount of $1,675,000.

According to court documents, Hamm invented a persona of being a wealthy and successful war hero.  Hamm held himself out to be a former member of the Army Special Forces who had served multiple tours of duty in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries.  He claimed to have been awarded a Purple Heart, Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Distinguished Service Cross for his service.  Hamm also represented that he was related to Harold Hamm, the billionaire oilman in Oklahoma, which he claimed gave him access to financial resources and oil industry expertise.  Through this larger-than-life persona, Hamm created an extensive network of friends who introduced him to potential investors.  Those investors believed Hamm’s claims and invested in what they expected to be worthwhile ventures spearheaded by a trustworthy and capable entrepreneur.

In reality, Derek Hamm was nothing of the sort.  Hamm was not a decorated war hero.  He was no oil industry tycoon.  He was not related to Harold Hamm.  He did not spend investors’ funds on the latest oil industry technology or new oil wells.  Within hours of receiving investors’ funds, Hamm spent their money on himself and his family, including expensive jewelry, vehicles, and vacations to expensive resorts on private charter planes.  All the while, Hamm represented to investors that he had invested their money in successful oil industry projects.  Because of the Hamm war hero persona, the investors trusted Hamm even as their invested funds failed to produce any returns.

“Whenever people invent achievements and claim valor for things done by others, they tarnish the legacy and service of those men and women who have made real sacrifices in service to this country,” said U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston.  “That is especially true when someone uses the valor of such service to ultimately steal from people.  Hamm’s repugnant actions are an insult to true American heroes who received real recognition for their real achievements.”

Hamm also pleaded guilty to being a prohibited person in possession of firearms and ammunition.  Hamm was convicted in Smith County in 2020 for theft of property, a state felony.  As a felon, Hamm is prohibited by federal law from owning or possessing firearms or ammunition. According to court documents, Hamm was in possession of dozens of firearms, including several rifles with high-capacity magazines, and ammunition for those firearms.

A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Hamm with federal violations on January 20, 2022.  He faces up to 20 years in federal prison.  The maximum statutory sentence prescribed by Congress is provided here for information purposes, as the sentencing will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.  A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of Derek Robert Hamm, please contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation at 903-594-3503.  Derek Robert Hamm is also known as D. Wayne Hamm II, Wayne Hamm, D. Wayne H., DW Hamm, and RD Hamm.

This case was prosecuted as part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods Initiative.  Project Safe Neighborhoods is aimed at reducing gun and gang violence; deterring illegal possession of guns, ammunition, and body armor; and improving the safety of residents in the Eastern District of Texas. Participants in the initiative include community members and organizations as well as federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Tyler Field Office, with assistance from the Tyler Police Department, the Smith County Sheriff’s Office, the Phoenix Arizona Police Department, Smith County Adult Probation, the Texas Railroad Commission-Enforcement Division, Department of Veteran’s Affairs-Office of Inspector General, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts-Criminal Investigation Division, and the United States Army Special Operations Command. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert Austin Wells and Ryan Locker.

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Topic(s): 
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Updated June 23, 2022