Marine With Phony Record Dupes Pentagon

ByABC News
August 30, 2004, 2:39 PM

July 7, 2004 -- In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the United States Navy awarded contracts valued at some $66 million to enhance security at its bases on the West Coast and in Hawaii. But Pentagon officials would soon come to regret their choice of company to receive the lucrative deal.

The contracts went to a company, Surgical Shooting Inc., run by former Marine Sgt. Gary Lakis, who cited his special operations combat experience from Panama to Somalia and wore a chest-full of medals.

"I think it was two Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, three Bronze Stars, two Air Medals," said Rick Sweeney, who was Lakis' former chief of operations and previously had served in the Special Forces. "He had pretty much everything you could imagine on his chest except for the Medal of Honor."

Under the contracts, Lakis' company was to teach Marines and sailors how to track and take on terror threats.

He and his company were featured several times on San Diego's local television news broadcasts in stories about special military operations.

"You can teach a lot of people basic marksmanship skills and teach 'em how to shoot, but then to teach them to be able to do precision, surgical shooting is difficult," Lakis said in one news report.

Special Forces' Suspicions

But for all his talk, some of his own employees soon became suspicious that Lakis was a phony.

"He was my boss," said Sweeney. "We had all pretty much heard about his qualifications and I was fairly embarrassed by his performance."

ABC News has learned there is no record of combat during Lakis' 10 years of active and reserve duty: no special operations, no Silver Stars, no Bronze Stars, and no Purple Hearts.

A group of Marine veterans questioned the huge number of decorations Lakis wore to a Marine veterans reunion where he even posed for pictures with the then-Marine commandant, Gen. James Jones.

"All he was, was nothing but a dirty liar and a phony. That's all he turned out to be," said Dick Sasser, a former Marine veteran who was a member of the Marines' elite special operations unit called Force Reconaissance.