DALLAS — A 35-year-old man, Brandon Ryan Blackstone, who admitted fraudulently representing the receipt of a military decoration for financial gain, has been sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn to serve 21 months in federal prison, announced U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas.
Blackstone pleaded guilty in September 2016 to a felony information charging one count of wire fraud and one count of fraudulent representation about the receipt of a military decoration for financial gain. Blackstone has been in custody since February 2017 for violations of his pretrial conditions.
“Falsely claiming military honors is disgraceful by itself,” said U.S. Attorney Parker. “But to do so for financial gain is particularly despicable.”
“Any fraudulent claim of military valor is disturbing and disrespectful to the brave men and women who earned their honors through courage and sacrifice. Brandon Blackstone’s fraudulent claims, made repeatedly with the purpose of defrauding the government and obtaining personal enrichment, are not only especially egregious, but criminal. The FBI will not stand by in these situations,” said FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Eric K. Jackson. “We will investigate these cases to ensure justice is reached. We will do our part to uphold the integrity of the U.S. government and military institutions and to honor those courageous individuals who truly deserve their military honors.”
“This conviction demonstrates the VA Office of Inspector General’s unwavering commitment to protect the programs intended to assist veterans that have served this nation and rightfully earned their benefits,” said Special Agent in Charge James Werner, VA Office of Inspector General.
According to plea documents, Blackstone served in the United States Marine Corps from 2004 until 2006. Between August 28, 2004, and September 30, 2004, Blackstone was deployed with the Marines to Iraq.
On July 28, 2006, Blackstone submitted an application for compensation and/or pension to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In the application, the defendant falsely claimed to have sustained multiple physical blast injuries while deployed to Iraq, when his Humvee vehicle struck an anti-tank mine. When Blackstone was examined at the Dallas VA Medical Center in October 2006 he falsely claimed that he sustained multiple lacerations and physical injuries as a result of an explosion when his Humvee passed over an anti-tank mine which exploded. Also in October 2006, in support of his application for benefits, Blackstone submitted to the VA, two forged and falsified witness statements, purporting to be signed by Marines who witnessed the explosion.
In November 2006, the VA awarded Blackstone disability benefits in the form of monthly compensation payments.
In February 2012, the defendant submitted an online application to the Military Warrior Support Foundation (MWSF), to fraudulently obtain a residence. MWSF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping injured veterans. Included in the benefits provided to combat wounded veterans, MWSF provides mortgage free residences to eligible veterans who were wounded during combat. In the application, Blackstone falsely claimed to have sustained blast injuries, resulting from an explosion, when his vehicle struck an anti-tank mine while on patrol. In the application, Blackstone also falsely claimed that, as a result of his injury, he was awarded the Purple Heart Medal. Because he held himself out to have been awarded the Purple Heart Medal, Blackstone received from MWSF, a mortgage free residence in Fort Worth, Texas in November 2012, and was scheduled to receive the title of the residence in November 2015.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Veteran Affairs, Office of Inspector General investigated the case. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Cole was in charge of the prosecution.
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