Former Marine Admits Running Elaborate Fraud Scheme To Get Financial Help To Play On PGA Tour
Defendant Concocted Convincing Story That He Was a Wounded Combat Veteran
DALLAS — Michael Duye Campbell, 30, of Houston, appeared in federal court in Dallas today and pleaded guilty, before U.S. District Judge Jorge A. Solis, to an Information charging one count of mail fraud, stemming from a scheme he ran from 2010 to 2012 to obtain financial assistance so that he could play professional golf. Campbell, a Houston resident, faces a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution. He will remain on bond, pending sentencing, which has been set for June 19, 2013, before Judge Solis. Today’s announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.
According to documents filed in the case, Campbell served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2000 to 2004; he never deployed overseas and was never injured, severely or otherwise, in combat. Nonetheless, he began representing himself as a Marine combat veteran who had suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) while deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
As part of his elaborate scheme, Campbell falsely told others that while on patrol in Fallujah, Iraq, his unit was attacked when an improvised explosive device (IED), or bomb, detonated. He told others that members of his unit died in the explosion and that he awoke from his serious injuries months later at Walter Reed Army Hospital. He claimed that he couldn’t speak, and that when he did regain his speech, he stuttered. He also claimed that he suffered short-term memory loss from his TBI.
Campbell told numerous individuals that his doctor suggested that he take up golf to help with his rehabilitation for his combat injuries. Campbell also created a website and obtained a promotional video recording to further his scheme — all to obtain financial help to play in the PGA.
Campbell was convincing in his story. He met famous people who supported charity golf tournaments for wounded warriors and convinced them to write stories on his behalf and provide him access to expensive golf schools and golf courses. All of this provided Campbell with opportunities to continue his scheme, defraud others and afford him opportunities to search out endorsement contracts for golf apparel and equipment.
In fact, it was during this process that Campbell learned of the Troops First Foundation and Operation Proper Exit. These charities provide opportunities for severely-injured service members to return to the location where they sustained their injury and, instead of being medically evacuated, provide them the opportunity to walk to the aircraft and climb the ramp. Campbell participated in Operation Proper Exit VIII, co-sponsored by the USO, in December 2010. He was flown from DFW to Dubai and then provided military transportation for the remainder of the trip. Even though Campbell was neither a combat veteran nor a wounded warrior, he made the trip, which cost thousands of dollars.
Campbell deceived other charities including Operation Homefront and Counter Valor by making continued material false statements in furtherance of his scheme to defraud. He obtained many things of value from them including automobile payments, automobile insurance payments, utilities, room and board, transportation, living expenses and golf tournament entry fees. Likewise, Campbell deceived Vola LLC (an athletic apparel and footwear company located in Richardson, Texas) and Golf Technology Xtreme, Inc. (GTX) (a manufacturer of golf clubs), by obtaining, and attempting to obtain golf clothing, equipment, money and other things of value from them.
Campbell admits that the victims of his fraud suffered at least $40,000 in actual losses.
The case is being investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Criminal Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Chad Meacham.