A 68-year-old Wisconsin man who falsely claimed to be a Navy SEAL wounded four times in Vietnam has been sentenced to four years in prison for theft and faking paperwork.
U.S. prosecutors say Kenneth E. Jozwiak produced fake discharge paperwork in 2014 to get U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pension benefits intended for low-income wartime veterans.
In 2014, Jozwiak submitted a discharge certificate that claimed he served as a Navy SEAL from 1965 to 1968 and was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
All -- including the four Purple Hearts for combat injuries -- were totally false, according to the U.S. Attorney's office for the northern district of Ohio.
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Jozwiak pleaded guilty and was sentenced late last week to more than four years in prison, the U.S Attorney's office said.
Jozwiak's federal public defender didn't immediately return a call for comment Tuesday.
His real military service was one year of a four-year enlistment from 1967 to 1968. He was never stationed overseas.
Afterward, Jozwiak embarked on a life as a serial grifter, according to a description of his criminal record.
"To say he had a lengthy criminal record is an understatement," Assistant U.S. Attorney David Toepfer told the Union-Tribune.
"He has a criminal record dating back to 1975. He's been arrested over 120 times in multiple states," Toepfer said, adding that Jozwiak has had "literally dozens and dozens" of theft-related convictions.
What makes the Wisconsin man's case stand out is the lengths to which he went to burnish the hero's story he created for himself, the U.S. Attorney's office said.
"He was particularly public in how he did it," Toepfer said. "He went as far as accompanying a child to an elementary school and representing himself as a Navy SEAL there and as having received all of these awards."
The school was his stepson's, according to court documents. Toepfer said it was akin to a "take a veteran to school" event.
The grand jury indictment says that when confronted with the fake discharge paperwork, Jozwiak said, "I never used that for anything, nothing. Never have."
But he was briefly granted VA pension benefits totally nearly $2,300 in 2014 before the VA inspector general started investigating.
Jozniak also pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and lying to investigators.
According to the indictment, he tried to convince his ex-wife to tell authorities that federal agents used an improper search warrant and stole lingerie from her bedroom during the search.
It's hard to say how many so-called stolen valor cases occur each year. A spokesman for the Justice Department in Washington said his office doesn't track these statistics.
Cases involving false claims of serving as a Navy SEAL are particularly scrutinized by the close-knit SEAL community headquartered in Coronado.
In a recent case that involved a former Southern California Marine, a man was convicted of lying about being injured in a bomb blast while serving in Iraq.
Using fake witness statements and a Purple Heart he didn't earn, the former Marine was awarded disability checks and a mortgage-free house before being caught.