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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Florida

Friday, February 28, 2014

Fake War Hero Pleads Guilty To Stealing Government Funds And Making False Statements

Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces that Walter Clarence Eatman (68, St. Cloud) yesterday pleaded guilty to theft of government funds and making false statements. Eatman faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 16, 2014, at 9:30 a.m., before Senior U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazarra.  

According to court documents, between July 2008 and July 2013, Eatman, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, applied for and received United States Department of Veterans Affairs compensation benefits based upon fraudulent information that he submitted to the VA. Specifically, on July 8, 2008, Eatman filed an application for compensation benefits based upon post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), hearing loss, and tinnitus. He also falsely claimed that he was a Vietnam combat veteran, that he served in Vietnam from August 15, 1965 to August 15, 1967, and that he was awarded a Purple Heart. Eatman subsequently altered his military discharge paperwork to falsely reflect service in Vietnam, receipt of a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, and submitted the fraudulent paperwork to the VA. In fact, Eatman never served in Vietnam or received a Purple Heart or a Bronze Star. Based upon his false claims and representations, Eatman received approximately $106,040.00 in government money and benefits, including mental health care and medication, to which he was not entitled.

In September 2010, Eatman attempted to obtain an increase in his VA benefits for PTSD by falsely claiming that he was haunted by his combat experiences in Vietnam.  Eatman lied about being wounded in combat, and again claimed to have received a Purple Heart. Eatman tricked a VA psychologist into believing that he was a decorated combat veteran suffering from PTSD. Eatman received a letter from the VA psychologist documenting his alleged condition.  He then mailed the letter to the VA Regional Office in St. Petersburg, along with a “statement in support of claim” on which Eatman wrote, “Attached please find new additional information supporting medical evidence for my current claim for increased compensation for PTSD and my claim for individual unemployability.” 

This case was investigated by United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Amanda C. Kaiser.

Updated January 26, 2015