Bronze Star Recipient Gets 4 Years for Stealing Identities

3D rendering of gavel, law scales and books on a wooden table
3D rendering of gavel, law scales and books on a wooden table

NORFOLK -- A search of a war hero's home last year uncovered more than just evidence that the Bronze Star recipient stole two subordinates' identities and fraudulently obtained $24,000 in loans, according to court documents.

Agents also found a stack of documents relating to nine other people, including seven subordinates. And most of those records, prosecutors said in court documents, had been painstakingly organized into target check lists to make it easier for the now-former senior chief petty officer to fraudulently apply for more loans.

Clayton Pressley III, 41, of Chesapeake was sentenced Monday to four years and two months in prison. He pleaded guilty in August to one count each of bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Bruce Sams, Pressley's attorney, called the sentence a little harsh but said his client came to court knowing he would have to serve some time.

"He's going to try and put this all behind him," Sams said.

According to court documents, Pressley applied for and received two loans totaling $14,000 in the name of one sailor and a third, $10,000 loan in the name of the other. He used the proceeds for his own benefit, the documents said.

The loans were from Pioneer Services, a division of MidCountry Bank that caters to military members.

Federal sentencing guidelines recommended Pressley receive no more than 3 1/2 years in prison, and that was what prosecutors asked for.

"This defendant held an awesome trust and respect reserved for operators within the U.S. Military who have served their country honorably," then-Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Alyssa Nichol said in court documents in January. "He has betrayed that trust and sullied that respect."

Sams asked the court for three years or less. He acknowledged his client did wrong but noted that his criminal record was otherwise clean.

"Mr. Pressley does not really know what reasons led him to engage in his criminal conduct, but has expressed his remorsefulness and repentance for having done so," Sams said.

U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson decided the facts warranted a longer sentence.

Pressley served in the Navy almost 20 years, leaving in February.

He received his Bronze Star in January 2007, according to a copy of the citation, "for exceptionally meritorious service during Operation Iraqi Freedom."

"His outstanding dedication to duty during combat operations in Iraq contributed to the overwhelming success of the command's mission," the citation said.

In an interview last year, Pressley said that while the citation references his entire tour of duty, he believed he got the medal for pulling comrades from a Stryker vehicle that had been hit by a bomb. He said he did it while under fire.

Starting in October 2014, Pressley was assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 6 at Joint Expeditionary Base in Virginia Beach.

Court documents said he served as a command action casualty officer, meaning he contacted military members' families in the event of their death.

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