Bogus war hero sentenced to 30 months in prison
KNOXVILLE — A veteran who claimed he was a war hero to join prestigious military clubs and dupe two federal agencies out of nearly a half-million dollars in benefits was sentenced today to 30 months in federal prison.
Charles C. Kaczmarczyk, 59, pleaded guilty in August to Social Security fraud, conspiracy to steal public money and two counts of stealing public money. Federal prosecutors said the Air Force veteran, who barely left U.S. shores and never saw a day of combat, swindled the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for years.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips told Kaczmarczyk he had done a "grave disservice" to the real heroes of war and imposed the maximum penalty allowed by federal sentencing guidelines in the case.
Kaczmarczyk, who claims to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, wove tales of his exploits in the Vietnam War, of helping to evacuate the U.S. embassy during the fall of Saigon, of rescuing merchant ships from Cambodia's Khmer Rouge and of watching the secret mission to rescue victims of the Iran hostage crisis fall apart in 1980. He told his stories to anyone who would listen, including an audience of University of Tennessee students in 2008.
Kaczmarczyk faked documents for various medals, including the Purple Heart and the Silver Star, and filed for veteran's and Social Security benefits to the tune of $457,986, Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Bolitho said.