In a video that has gone viral, a U.S. veteran is seen confronting an Army Ranger imposter on his uniform and service record. The imposter was at a Philadelphia mall shopping for discounts when confronted by the vet. Investigators are determining whether or not the man posing as a ranger broke the law.
Military Police and Middletown Police Department are investigating the situation. In the video, the imposter is attempting to receive preferential treatment and benefit by donning fatigues at Oxford Valley Mall. The man was approached by army vet, Ryan Berk, who did a tour in Afghanistan. Berk caught the confrontation on camera and the footage received more than two million views between multiple YouTube accounts. Berk, his girlfriend, and his girlfriend’s son were out shopping at the mall when he noticed something peculiar about the imposter’s uniform.
According to Berk, the boots were not tucked and a patch was placed in the wrong location which tipped him off. Berk interrogated the man firing off question after question. In the expletive laced video, Berk is heard telling the imposter to admit to being a phony and advising him that his actions were illegal. The poser eventually walks off after denying being a fraud without giving his full name. He was later identified as Sean Yetman.
“Stolen valor” is yelled by Berk in the video several times in the crowded shopping mall after the vet confronts the army ranger imposter. Berk warned a store manager of the deception prior to confronting Yetman on the irregularities of his uniform. Berk said friends of his died in Afghanistan wearing the same uniform donned by the imposter. Mike Fitzpatrick, U.S. Rep, alerted the United States Attorney’s Office about the video. The video was said to possibly contain proof of a crime punishable under federal law.
The Stolen Valor Act of 2013, co-sponsored by Fitzpatrick, makes it against the law to present oneself as a decorated military serviceman with intentions of receiving tangible benefits. While not illegal to pose or claim to be a military veteran, it is punishable to intentionally receive or attempt to receive favor as a veteran.
Joseph Bartolla, Middletown Police Chief, said it is possible the individual was engaged in criminal activity. State law prohibits the purchase of military awards earned during service. Fitzpatrick penned a letter to U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger requesting the army imposter be investigated. According to human resources for the army, no record of Yetman serving in the army existed. Fitzpatrick declined to state the contents of the letter and said the decision to prosecute is up to the prosecutors.
It is against the Department of Justice’s policy to confirm or deny if an investigation exists, said Patricia Hartman, DOJ spokeswoman. Since the law was enacted, the office has not brought charges on anyone in relation to the law. In 2010, the office prosecuted former Marine James Anthony Alleva under a 2005 law that was repealed by the Supreme Court in 2012 on the grounds of free speech. Alleva plead guilty to doctoring his discharge papers and illegally donning the Silver Star, Purple Heart, Bronze Star, as well as a Scuba Badge and Parachute Jump Wings. Alleva received a six month probation sentence.
Berk was brought on to Fox and Friends to describe the situation. Berk exclaimed that it was impossible for an army veteran to receive three different combat infantry badges (CIB). In order to receive three different CIB’s the imposter would have had to do combat in three different wars which would have been physically impossible due to the poser’s age.
Reporters went to the alleged imposter’s home and were greeted by a woman Saturday night. She stated the man had a military background but was unable to elaborate any further. She indicated that she had not seen the video of the confrontation between the army vet and the ranger imposter and that the family had no comment on the matter.
By Stevenson Benoit
Photo by ussocom_ru – Flickr License