Carlos Luna-Gonzalez once served in the Navy as an apprentice, but he aroused suspicion in Texas last year after allegedly dressing in a Navy lieutenant junior grade uniform with a Purple Heart, SEAL trident and jump wings, officials said. Acting on a tip, Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler – himself a veteran – found military records showing Luna-Gonzalez never served as a SEAL, so Fowler teamed up with local gun shop owner Joey Blanton for an elaborate sting.
“We were going to award him with a firearm for his service,” Blanton said.
Luna-Gonzalez allegedly accepted an expensive assault rifle as a gift, and was arrested. But police say he jumped bail, fleeing to Puerto Rico. He was taken into custody Monday and has not entered a plea.
So-called “stolen valor” cases are common, says Doug Sterner, the curator of the Military Times Hall of Valor who helps expose imposters. “Stolen valor is not a harmless crime,” Sterner said. “It’s a lie. It’s deception.”
Fowler was pleased that Luna-Gonzalez was taken into custody.
“He couldn’t even shine the SEALs’ boots, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.