Man already charged with stealing from Legion post is held for trial in stolen valor case
By DAVID SINGLETON | The Times-Tribune | Published: February 3, 2020
SCRANTON, Pa. (Tribune News Service) — A stolen valor case against a West Scranton man who already awaits trial on charges of stealing from an American Legion will move on to Lackawanna County Court.
Magisterial District Judge Alyce Farrell found sufficient evidence at Christopher Crawford’s preliminary hearing Monday to hold him for trial on charges of misrepresenting his military service.
The ruling came after witnesses testified Crawford, 31, masqueraded as a combat veteran who served and was wounded in Iraq even though military records show he was discharged from the Army under other than honorable conditions after going absent without leave during boot camp.
“He was chopped from the rolls and marked as a deserter,” county Veterans Affairs Director David Eisele said of Crawford’s status when he went AWOL in 2007.
Crawford was originally arrested last summer on charges of stealing more than $16,700 from American Legion Post 568 in Minooka. Investigators accused Crawford, who was in charge of memberships and recruitment for the organization, of using post debit cards to make unauthorized purchases and cash withdrawals between March and August.
The district attorney’s office began looking into Crawford’s military history after American Legion officials said they could find nothing in their files to document his status as a veteran or his eligibility for membership in the organization.
County Detective Lisa Bauer testified about the steps she took to obtain to a copy of Crawford’s military record, which showed he accepted a discharge under other than honorable conditions in December 2007 as an alternative to a trial by court martial.
Eisele, who reviewed the record during his testimony, said Crawford signed a document upon his discharge acknowledging he would be ineligible for “many or all” benefits available to veterans based on the nature of the discharge.
He described Crawford’s status now as a “general citizen.”
“Is he a veteran?” Deputy District Attorney Judy Price asked.
“No,” Eisele said.
After Price produced photographs from Crawford’s Facebook page depicting him wearing a Combat Infantry Badge and other military gear, including a 10th Mountain Division insignia and a Veterans of Foreign Wars cap, Eisele said Crawford was not eligible to wear any of them.
Sean O’Shea, Post 568 commander, testified Crawford used to wear his hat with the Combat Infantry Badge — which is awarded only to infantrymen who have engaged in active ground fighting — all the time.
Crawford came to Post 568 from an American Legion post in Pittsburgh, where he had been a member and an officer, O’Shea said. He gave Post 568 officials no reason to disbelieve his accounts about serving in Iraq, where he claimed to have been injured by an improvised explosive device.
“I really looked at him as a friend and a brother,” O’Shea said.
Crawford, who is charged with one count each of misrepresentation of military service or honors and misrepresentation of decoration or medal, remains locked up in the county jail on $105,000 bail.