Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mayor Returns, Resigns

This has been an interesting story to follow:

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The mayor of Atlantic City, New Jersey, who's been absent from his job since September 26, has resigned, his attorney Edwin Jacobs said Wednesday.

Mayor Robert Levy was under federal investigation for allegedly misrepresenting aspects of his military career, a source familiar with the investigation told CNN Monday.

Levy, who was elected by an overwhelming majority in November 2005, is suspected of receiving military benefits to which he was not entitled, the source said.

The NY Times had this to say earlier in the week:

Mr. Levy’s lawyer, Edwin J. Jacobs, declined to answer when asked if Mr. Levy wanted to stay in office. Mr. Jacobs said he planned to issue a statement on behalf of Mr. Levy that would “fully explain all of the mayor’s circumstances.”

Mr. Jacobs would not say whether the mayor’s absence was related to his admission last fall that he had misrepresented his military service in Vietnam. After a series of articles in The Press of Atlantic City, the mayor conceded that although he was in the Army, he was not in the Special Forces.

The United States attorney for New Jersey, Christopher J. Christie, is investigating whether Mr. Levy used the misrepresentation to collect larger payments under his military pension.

Mr. Levy, 60, was last at City Hall on Sept. 26 and has not been seen publicly since. Mr. Jacobs said his client enrolled at the Carrier Clinic, an inpatient treatment center in Belle Mead, N.J., specializing in the treatment of psychiatric disorders and substance abuse.

Mr. Jacobs declined to say why Mr. Levy was treated at the clinic; he would say only that he had been discharged last Thursday and was resting at home in the Venice Park section of Atlantic City.


Mr. Levy’s disappearance also brought to mind the problems of other mayors here, five of whom have either been convicted of corruption or have pleaded guilty to malfeasance in the last 40 years.

It's sad that people feel compelled to aggrandize their service to their country beyond what it actually was. It begins to step over the line of being merely sad into criminal when they do so for financial gain, especially for benefits sorely needed by other veterans.

The internet sometimes feels more like a dis-information superhighway, but many people are starting to put it to use for something beyond propaganda and porn. The Chicago Tribune noted this growing trend monday:

Fraud busters on rise against fake veterans
Web, federal law help to expose military charlatans

When Douglas E. Robinson showed up in Yorkville saying he was a homeless Vietnam veteran who had lost everything in Hurricane Katrina, the American Legion post took pity on a former comrade in arms, giving him nearly $400 and paying for a few nights' lodging.

But Robinson and his wife's aggressive demands for money and slip-ups in his story led Kendall County sheriff's deputies to investigate. It turned out he had never served in the military, officials allege.

Robinson was lodged in Kendall County Jail last week on charges of stealing government-supported property and fraud in seeking veterans' benefits. The allegations, if true, are part of a rising flood of cases nationwide in which officials and private sleuths -- aided by the Internet and a new federal law -- are exposing hustlers and charlatans who claim benefits or honors that aren't theirs.


The bill, sponsored by U.S. Rep. John Salazar (D-Colo.), follows up on December's Stolen Valor Act, which expanded federal authority to prosecute those who falsely claim or display military honors.

The crimes are not victimless, say the determined sleuths who spend hours scanning the Internet and filing Freedom of Information Act requests to expose glory hogs. Phonies warp the historical record, scam taxpayers of millions of dollars and in some cases even put troops in the field at risk.


In one of those cases, a Tacoma man named Jesse Macbeth was embraced by peace activists eager to discredit the Iraq war after he claimed to have joined other Army Rangers in slaughtering hundreds of unarmed civilians in Iraq. In fact, his service was limited to a few weeks in Army boot camp before he was kicked out, the U.S. attorney's office in Seattle reported.

"That guy made a 40-minute DVD that the anti-war movement was using," said B.G. Burkett, a Texas Vietnam veteran and co-author of "Stolen Valor," a 1998 book that exposed frauds even in the leadership of national veterans groups.

"And he's very graphic about how he killed people, how he tortured them, how he shot the baby, dragged the mother out and blew her brains out -- on and on and on. It's been translated into Arabic and it's now being used as a recruiting tool for suicide bombers."

Honor made up of whole cloth is no honor at all. Serving is an honor in and of itself. Making up horror stories to help bring the troops back home only helps put them in more harm. Making up stories to get more benefits at the expense of other needy veterans is shameful as well. It makes it harder for those legitimately in need to prove their claims as the government tries to stop the fraud.

Though the watchdog groups claim they have little interest in going after those spinning grand tales at the local pub as opposed to those doing so for financial gain, those stories can also hurt fellow veterans if people become aware of false claims and vote to clamp down on benefits to prevent fraud or think less of our men and women in uniform due to fake horror stories.

I hope that people can realize that words can have a devastating effect beyond their own personal situation if they lie about such things. Perhaps just a little adherence to Honor, Courage, and Commitment to tell the truth or at least to not lie... it would be greatly appreciated.

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