After being barred from re-enlistment, soldier rejoined with stolen identity

U.S. Army Soldier Brigadier General John Gentry, commander, 78th Troop Command, Georgia Army National Guard, conducts an enlistment ceremony during halftime at Georgia Southern University's annual military appreciation football game against Coastal Carolina in Statesboro, Ga., on Nov. 6, 2021. Photo by Spc. Tori Miller

Kaitlyn Alanis

The Charlotte Observer

Sometime after DeLeo Antonio Barner was discharged from the U.S. Army, he felt the urge to reenlist, according to federal authorities.

But he was ineligible to rejoin the Army, so officials said the Missouri native took someone else’s identity from St. Louis City Hall.

Then, in April 1985, Barner enlisted in the Army as someone with the initials J.S. — a fellow resident of St. Louis, according to a signed plea agreement.

While pretending to be J.S., Barner served in the Army, where he was stationed in Berlin, Germany, until he was honorably discharged in November 1988, authorities said.

Barner kept his “new” name for 33 years, until he was caught, according to a Sept. 6 news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri.

After pleading guilty to passport fraud, the 60-year-old man was recently sentenced to “100 hours of community service and the time he’s already served in jail,” according to the news release. He’ll also serve three years of supervised release.

With his guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss the charge of aggravated identity theft, according to court records.

Barner’s defense attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News on Sept. 7.

While living in Germany under the J.S. name, Barner worked for security firms and had six children, all who live under his assumed name, authorities said. He also received about $70,000 in disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs for “apparent service-connected injuries.”

An investigation into Barner didn’t begin until at least June 2018, when the real J.S. tried to get health insurance, according to the signed plea agreement. J.S. was denied because he had “veteran status” and access to VA health care. But he had never served in the military.

Federal agents began reviewing J.S.’s passport data and learned an impostor had obtained a passport and several renewals in his name — most recently through the United States Embassy in Berlin, records state.

Barner was interviewed in July 2019, officials said, and he first introduced himself as J.S., showing his fraudulent passport as proof. But when confronted, he admitted who he actually was.

The St. Louis native was indicted in March 2020, and he was taken from Berlin to Missouri. He spent about a week in jail, according to the news release.

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