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Georgia man convicted for falsely claiming Purple Heart

A former Georgia police officer has been found guilty of a number of charges related to a false claim that he was awarded the Purple Heart for being injured in a military exercise. The Canton man could be sentenced to five years behind bars for each of five charges of making false claims. These were made both to the Cherokee County tax commissioner and the county sheriff in order to get special license plates free of charge. He could also receive five years for one count of theft by taking. The jury found him not guilty on another theft charge.

The investigation of the man began shortly after he and his wife were struck by a train back in late 2012. He and other veterans were in Texas for a parade when the flatbed trailer he was on was hit. His wife lost her leg as a result of the crash.

The sheriff's office in Cherokee County began investigating the man's Purple Heart status and found no evidence that he'd ever been awarded the medal. He had contended that he was wounded in 1989 while serving in Panama where he said he was part of a mission to capture then-President Manuel Noriega.

However, when he was arrested, his attorneys reportedly said that the injury that earned him the Purple Heart actually occurred when he was struck by shrapnel in Honduras in 1991 during a drug action. He said that he had lost the medal as well as the citation confirming that he had received it.

The man was booked into jail immediately after the verdict. A sentencing date has thus far not been scheduled.

The potential sentence may seem harsh for making false claims to get free license plates for a few years (2009 to 2012). However, lying about a military service record is something that law enforcement and prosecutors take very seriously. If you or a loved one is facing such charges, it's essential that you seek guidance from an experienced Georgia criminal defense attorney.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Former officer found guilty in Purple Heart case," Raisa Habersham, May 02, 2017

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