Phony Marine Busted — Too Fat to Be Real

By Brian Ross And Vic Walter

Nov 29, 2006 4:25pm

FBI agents have arrested a St. Louis businessman who they say posed as a highly decorated Marine Major even though he never served in the Corps. Forty-eight-year-old Michael Weilbacher was arrested while attending a local Marine Corps League meeting. Federal authorities say he was spotted earlier this month at another event, the Marine Corps  Annual Birthday Ball, wearing several distinguished medals.  THE BLOTTER RECOMMENDS Fake Medal Wearer Gets Off Easy Video Fake Medals, Phony Hero Click Here to Check Out Who’s Blowing Hot, Cool and Smoke on the Brian Ross Homepage "He was wearing the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars and just about every medal in the book," said Major William G. Dragan, who attended the event and told ABC News that he immediately became suspicious of Weilbacher. "He boasted of getting his Navy Cross by leading a secret mission against drug cartels in Colombia, which seemed very strange to me," Dragan said. Weilbacher’s girth also raised suspicion, Dragan said. "He is massively overweight, something like 400 pounds, and yet he claimed he had just left the Marines, which did not add up because he could never meet USMC physical standards," Dragan said. Federal authorities say there is no record of Weilbacher ever serving in the Marines. Weilbacher was charged under a federal law that makes it illegal to wear Armed Forces medals without being authorized. The charge carries a penalty of six months in prison and/or a fine of $50,000. A bill currently before Congress, "The Stolen Valor Act of 2005," would also make it against the law to make verbal or written fraudulent claims of having been awarded medals or decorations. FBI agent Tom Cottone Jr., who has investigated more than 200 cases of imposters wearing military medals, says, "They do it to feed their own egos and gain instant respect and admiration." "The imposters also attempt to enhance their careers and achieve financial gain," Cottone says. "There are probably thousands of individuals currently wearing unearned medals and decorations and thousands more making false claims of receiving military awards." Weilbacher was released on bond today after an initial appearance before a federal magistrate. He is scheduled to be arraigned in federal court Dec. 7. He could not be reached for comment.

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