Fake Army Ranger befriended ex-SEAL Marcus Luttrell
By Dane Schiller | Houston Chronicle | Published: April 18, 2014
Daniel Lee Marshall Jr. didn't just masquerade as an Army Ranger by wearing ribbons or rank he didn't earn, or by driving around in a pickup truck with a Purple Heart license plate he did not deserve.
He embedded himself within the inner circle of ex-Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrel, the storied war hero from Texas portrayed in the book and movie "Lone Survivor."
Now, Marshall wears the orange uniform of an inmate, charged in federal court in Houston with being a felon in possession of a firearm.
When Marshall, 45, was arrested Wednesday by agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, they allegedly found more weapons in his home, as well as an Army uniform with a Ranger patch on the shoulder.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Stolen Valor Act, a 2005 law that made it illegal for people to wear military medals they had not earned or to lie about having been awarded such medals. Still authorities on Thursday publicly revealed for the first time Marshall's past and connections to Luttrell to show he could not be trusted enough to be released on bail.
"He represents himself as a Special Forces operator," Assistant U.S. Attorney John Jocher said. He held up photos taken from the Internet which showed Marshall in uniform, as well as other images.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Johnson ordered he remain in custody and shared her thoughts on the fake veteran scheme.
"It is despicable but not a crime," she said from the bench.
Marshall first got close to Luttrell's family back in 2005 when the sailor was temporarily missing as the only survivor among a group of SEALs in Afghanistan who were overwhelmed by a far larger number of Taliban fighters.
Marshall's friendship with Luttrell soured in 2010 when Marshall was accused of taking a pistol from Luttrell's Texas ranch.
At about the same time, a group of real Rangers, who knew Luttrell and were at a Houston-area gala marking the anniversary of Luttrell's ordeal smoked out Marshall as a fake, and his felonious past came to light.
ATF Agent Christopher Wilhite testified Thursday about his dealings with Marshall in which he had at least twice obtained several military-style guns despite laws that prohibit him from buying them.
Marshall has had several run-ins with the law, including arrests for forgery and credit card fraud.
Federal public defender Natalia Cornelio sought to show that Marshall has never harmed anyone, that it has been more than a decade since he had previously been convicted of a crime.
A man who briefly huddled with Cornelio outside the courtroom, and who said he has known Marshall for 25 years, said he was a good guy who got caught up in trying to help Luttrell's family.
"He made some mistakes, but he is still a good man," said the friend, who did not want to be named. "He goes way out of the way to help people."
He said that Marshall did serve in the military, but he was not sure when, where or in what capacity.
The Department of Defense could not immediately confirm whether Marshall had served.
Luttrell made national news in 2009 when he went on a 40-mile chase over three Texas counties at speeds of up to 100 mph to catch up to strangers in a sedan who shot his dog, a 4-year-old Labrador he'd been given to help him recover from war injuries.
This is not the first high-profile case of stolen valor in the Houston area in recent years.
In 2012, Paul Schroeder of The Woodlands portrayed himself as a highly decorated Special Operations soldier who developed PTSD after serving multiple tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Central and South America.
He later confessed that he'd embellished his service record. He had served 10 years in the Army as a military policeman, but never went to war and never served in special operations or earned a silver star. He pleaded guilty and served 30 days.
In 2009, Michael McManus drew scrutiny after he attended a party for newly elected Mayor Annise Parker, while wearing an Army brigadier general's uniform and an outrageous array of medals and distinguished service crosses. He was charged federally but died before the case could be resolved.
His lawyers argued McManus purposely wore a uniform that was over the top not to fool anyone, but to make a statement about the rights of gay Americans to serve in the military.
The Exchange's Director/CEO Tom Shull and Deputy Director Maj. Gen. Joseph Ward meet with Marcus Luttrell, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL during his visit to the Exchange headquarters in Dallas in this undated file photo. Luttrell received the Navy Cross for his actions in 2005 facing Taliban fighters during Operation Red Wing and his story was retold in the movie, "Lone Survivor" starring Mark Wahlberg.
U.S. Department of Defense