The fake Iraqi war hero was among the first prosecuted under Pa.’s stolen valor law. The harsh prison term handed down this week should ward off others.
Certainly, the judge is sending a well-timed Memorial Day message: Some things should never, ever be stolen.
As WNEP-TV reports, Christopher Crawford of Scranton, falsely claimed he was a veteran wounded in an Iraqi bombing only to have actually fled boot camp a few weeks in, will be reporting to prison for at least the next 6 years.
This after a Lackawanna County judge handed down a harsh sentence in the case this week.
Crawford must also pay back more than $16,000 he stole from an American Legion in Scranton. The same judge had found him guilty of both stealing veterans’ valor and their money during a bench trial back in February.
Crawford now has the dubious distinction of being the first person prosecuted under the recent Pa. law making lying about military service a felony.
As WNEP previously reported, the stolen valor part seemed to anger veterans most.
And as stolen valor lies go, Crawford’s was a big one, amounting to grand theft.
When Crawford came to American Legion Post 568 in Scranton, he claimed he was injured by an IED in Iraq. In reality, he deserted only weeks into Army boot camp, WNEP reports.
“The thing that’s going through my mind in there is all those who we lost overseas in all the wars. What a disgrace,” James Kuchwara, commander, VFW Post 25, told the news station during the trial.
The real vets the trial attracted wouldn’t thing of doing such a thing, WNEP reported.
“They come from a generation where veterans don’t go around saying, ‘Hey, I’m a war hero.’ This guy made himself out to be some kind of superman, and he had a lot of people fooled,” David Eisele, Lackawanna County Office of Veterans Affairs, told WNEP at the time.
During the trial, prosecutors laid out how Crawford stole more than $10,000 from Post 568 in just a matter of months last summer. He used four different debit cards that he gave himself as the post secretary. He spent hundreds of dollars a day at bars around Minooka. Other post officers noticed something was wrong only when checks started to bounce.
But Crawford took something more than money, these vets said.
“The lying about his service hurts ten times more than the money. It’s a slap in the face to all the veterans, mostly to the friends and family of those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Robert Kerrigan, American Legion Post 568, told WNEP. “He won’t break us; we’re here to make sure that justice prevails.”
Lying about military service became a felony offense in Pennsylvania in 2017.
The entire case is a good reminder as we prepare to observe Memorial Day.
Hopefully, the judge’s harsh sentence sends a much-needed message: Some things should never, ever be stolen.
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