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Yuma authorities nab criminal masquerading as Marine

18 Jun 2009 | Cpl. Laura A. Mapes

Local civilian law enforcement arrested John W. Rodriguez June 10, 2009, at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport after returning from Sacramento, Calif., where he fled to avoid the 13 felony charges he currently faces, including fraudulently impersonating a Marine.

Yuma Detective, Rick Vankeuren with the Arizona Department of Public Safety apprehended Rodriguez after he changed his flight, originally scheduled for the following week, in an effort to thwart authorities.

Rodriguez, 31, was identified as a fraud in early June, when he attended a political event wearing the Marine service alpha uniform brandishing gunnery sergeant chevrons, with no service stripes and the Silver Star and Navy Cross medals.

Rodriguez is charged with violating the Stolen Valor Act of 2005, which states the unauthorized wear, manufacture, sale or claim of any military decorations and medals may result in up to one year in prison and/or a fine.

“He did a decent job portraying this façade,” said Vankeuren, the arresting officer and a former Marine. “He must have done his research, because he has been doing this for a while.”

After law enforcement officials searched the man’s home in Scottsdale, Ariz., they found a full compliment of Marine uniforms and ribbons.

The California native has never served in any branch of the military, according to Vankeuren.

“The closest this guy ever came to serving in the military is taking the (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery),” said Vankeuren.

Rodriguez used his false status to obtain material items and discounts as well as waivers from the Department of Motor Vehicles for his license plate, said Vankeuren.

Rodriguez claimed to be an explosive ordinance disposal technician with the 7th Engineer Support Battalion in Camp Pendleton, Calif. He also used a fake deployment to Camp Fallujah, Iraq, to postpone his court hearing for an Operating Under the Influence charge in June 2008.

In addition to multiple counts of fraud, he is also being charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of stolen property, falsification of legal documents as well as impersonating a police officer.

“As a former Marine, I see this as spitting in the face of the service members who have fought and served to earn those decorations,” said Vankeuren. “Unfortunately, these cases are becoming more and more prevalent.” 

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Marine Corps Air Station Yuma