War hero poser pleads guilty to fraud, theft
Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.
He lied about his military service, his medals, his war wounds.
He spun the tales for anyone who'd listen, from curious college students to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
But Charles Chester Kaczmarczyk hesitated when the time came to tell the truth Friday.
"Are you pleading guilty because you are guilty?" U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips asked.
Kaczmarczyk hesitated, mumbled and looked at his lawyer before answering.
"Yes, your honor," he said.
Kaczmarczyk, 58, pleaded guilty 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 government out of nearly half a million dollars in disability benefits with his lies.
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.
The judge set sentencing for Dec. 12.
Kaczmarczyk's wife, Martha, faces charges of helping him file his bogus claims and lying to get disability benefits for a bad back. She remains on house arrest with a trial set for Sept. 26.
©2012 the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.)
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