He lied about being a Marine sniper to get a lighter sentence
By SARAH LARIMER | The Washington Post | Published: October 28, 2016
The military career that Shane Sperow had touted as his own was quite impressive.
It included time serving in operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, as well as other deployments, according to the Reading Eagle.
It was also a lie.
"In reality, none of those things were true," Charles Prutzman, an assistant district attorney in Berks County, Pa., said earlier this week, after listing Sperow's falsified accomplishments. "And you were never a U.S. Marine."
Sperow, authorities say, falsely claimed to have had a decorated career as a Marine sniper in an attempt to land a lighter sentence from a judge earlier this year. Now, though, the 43-year-old will serve time in state prison, after officials figured out the service record was fake, according to the Eagle.
"If we can't make accurate sentencing decisions, then it really impugns the entire system," Prutzman said. "So not only did he disgrace veterans who actually made sacrifices for the county, but he basically exhibited a complete lack of respect for the court system as a whole and the legal process as it needs to function correctly."
"My only comment is that it's an unfortunate situation," said Sperow's attorney, Will Spade, who did not represent him in the previous proceedings. "He's not a bad person."
Sperow's story began fall apart earlier this year, after an attorney read a written statement that detailed his client's military honors during a February hearing, Prutzman said.
"The list was so fantastical, it sounded like there should be a movie made about the guy," he said.
The Eagle carried the details of that phony record that Sperow's attorney at the time, John Elder, detailed for the court, noting that it was so impressive, it caught the attention of authorities.
The newspaper reported:
"According to court documents, Elder noted that Sperow was a sniper with the First Force Recon, which is part of the Special Forces of the Marines. He said Sperow's most notable service was his deployment in Fallujah, Iraq, in April 2004.
"Elder said Sperow was watching over an Army checkpoint when it came under fire and was overrun. He claimed Sperow left his sniper post and went to the checkpoint, where he 'personally saved four airborne individuals,' according to court documents.
"Elder said that while Sperow was taking the other individuals to a safe place, a Humvee near him was blown up by a rocket-propelled grenade. He said the explosion severely injured Sperow's right hand, right shoulder and the back of his head, resulting in numerous surgeries."
District Attorney John Adams told the newspaper that his office didn't think Elder was aware of the misrepresentation.
"In February of 2016, Sperow provided forged documents purporting that he was a retired, decorated member of the United States Marine Corps during a sentencing hearing before Judge Parisi," the Berks County District Attorney's Office wrote on its Facebook page this week. "Sperow also provided a written statement in court that he was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart during his service in the U.S. Marine Corps. An investigation revealed that Sperow never served in the U.S. Marine Corps."
The Eagle reports that Sperow appeared in October before a different judge, Paul M. Yatron, and pleaded guilty to providing false statements to authorities. Additionally, he admitted to probation violations for earlier cases.
In the false statements incident, Sperow was handed a prison term of three months to two years, the Eagle reported. He was given more prison time for the other cases. The Eagle reports that Sperow is expected to spend a total of 21 months to five years in state prison, a term that will be followed by probation.
Sperow admitted that he fabricated his military past and apologized, according to the Eagle. Spade, the defense attorney, said at the hearing that Sperow was "frightened in the moment and made a mistake."
This kind of case is known as "Stolen Valor," a term for false claims about a person's military background or awards.
Sperow's case was covered earlier this year on the military blog "This Ain't Hell," which praised the district attorney's office for its work.
"I commend the prosecutors for their diligence in the Sperow case," a blog post on the site read, "it's not often we see that kind of commitment."
After Sperow's false military background was uncovered, District Attorney John Adams called his claims a "masquerade" that had stretched on long before the court appearance.
"We intend to hold this individual accountable," Adams said in April. "We will continue to honor those who served in our military, but those who lie about their military service will be dealt with in an appropriate manner."
Authorities who searched Sperow's home uncovered a camouflage uniform, as well as a certificate indicating an honorable discharge, the Eagle reported. Sperow's resume carried information about a military career, and friends referred to his service record in letters sent to the court. But military officials contacted by authorities didn't have any records on him, the newspaper noted.
"It's unbelievable what this defendant lied about and unbelievable that he falsified a military record and tried to use that to his advantage," Adams said.
Prutzman, the assistant district attorney, noted that in this case, the outrage stretched beyond just issues of falsifying military service, pointing out that Sperow also duped the legal system.
"I'm happy that we were able to find this fraudulent behavior," he said. "Because like I said, it really does go to the integrity of the system itself, people try to pull fast one like this and falsify information, much less disgrace veterans in the process of doing so."