New Stolen Valor act passes in New Jersey, increasing penalty

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former President George W. Bush and Medal of Honor recipient Sgt, First Class Leroy Petry during the New York Jets home opener, Sept. 11, 2011. Photo Credit: U.S. Army

A legislation aimed at cracking down on individuals who falsely impersonate veterans or active duty military members to try and receive various perks was recently signed into law.

The law (A-4104) was inspired by recent videos recorded by veterans and active-duty troops in which they capture people who they believe are faking military service to receive the perks and services provided to military members.

The videos are usually uploaded to social media sites.

In one of the most popular videos, a veteran at the Oxford Valley Mall in Pennsylvania questions a man in army fatigues who claimed to have served in Afghanistan and Iraq as a member of the Army Rangers, but was unfamiliar with proper military protocol. The video was uploaded on YouTube and has almost 5 million views.

The law, which is known as the New Jersey Stolen Valor Act, was sponsored by New Jersey General Assembly Democrats Vince Mazzeo, Bob Andrzejczak, Joseph Lagana, Raj Mukherji, Cleopatra Tucker, and Carmelo G. Garcia.

According to the Bergen Dispatch, the law cracks down on imposters by making it a crime of the third degree to knowingly impersonate a veteran or member of the military for the purpose of obtaining money, property, or any other benefit that can be obtained by wearing a uniform, medal, or insignia authorized for use by members of the military.

Anybody caught impersonating a military member will face a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000.

“Anyone who attempts to obtain any financial benefit or perk by knowingly lying about their military or veteran status really stoops to a new low,” said Mazzeo. “These examples of Stolen Valor demean those who have served in the military and those who have sacrificed and lost their lives in defense of our nation.  It is my hope that this legislation and its harsh penalties will help dissuade anyone from continuing this heinous practice.”

The current state law makes it a crime of the fourth degree to falsely present oneself as a military member with the intent to deceive, but it doesn’t say anything about wearing a military uniform with the intention of receiving benefits.

“The invaluable experience and knowledge of military men and women cannot be easily duplicated,” said Lagana. “There should be a penalty for those who try to impersonate them and take advantage of military perks and benefits offered in New Jersey.”

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