A Scottsdale man who posed as a highly decorated Marine for several years was sentenced Tuesday to 7 1/2 years in prison, according to the Arizona Attorney General's Office.
John W. Rodriguez, 31 was sentenced in Maricopa Country Superior Court on charges of forgery, fraudulent schemes and presentation of a false instrument for filing. Along with prison time, the sentence includes four years of probation upon his release.
Between 2005 and 2010, Rodriguez falsely represented himself as a Marine who was honored with a variety of prestigious medals, according to Molly E. Edwards, press secretary for the Arizona Attorney General's Office.
Dan Ryan, a former Marine and FBI agent, first came in contact with Rodriguez at a Republican committee meeting in 2008. He noticed Rodriguez wearing a service uniform with some of the military branch's highest honors, including the Navy Cross. The Navy Cross is the second highest award for Marines and sailors.
"My first reaction was, 'This guy's a stud,' " Ryan said. "Then I looked a little more and thought, 'Something's going on here.' I'm very, very sensitive about the Navy Cross. I happen to have written one of the citations for the Marine who was killed right next to me in 1967 in Vietnam in a firefight."
Ryan decided to look into Rodriguez's background. After doing some research, Ryan alerted investigators at the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
A search of Department of the Navy and Department of Defense records found that Rodriguez never served in any branch of the military.
Within a year, the Arizona Department of Public Safety had this to report: Rodriguez, 31, was never in the Marines but had spent years passing himself off as a war hero who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Arizona Attorney General's Office.
He gained access to military bases, received discounted airline tickets, went to the Marine Corps Ball and briefly acquired a job with a local health-care provider that gave him access to sensitive information on veterans.
He also signed documents claiming to be on active duty and listed military status when he tried to gain employment.
Rodriguez's temporary work at TriWest Healthcare Alliance concerned investigators because he could have accessed confidential information on thousands of veterans.
"This guy is such a good con man that he has trained with the local Marine Corps unit here. . . . He got in Camp Pendleton in San Diego with his ID," DPS Detective Roger Wilson said. "We started kind of considering this as domestic terrorism. NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service) was very concerned. From that point on, the level of awareness was heightened."
Rodriguez flew from Arizona to California on May 28, 2009, after the Department of Public Safety and Department of Defense conducted an investigation of his claims.
Investigators searched the home where Rodriguez had been staying and found numerous Marine Corps uniforms, insignia, medals, ribbons and receipts for their purchase.
They were also able to find flight information that helped them determine that Rodriguez would be returning on June 10, 2009. On that day, Rodriguez found officers waiting for him at the airport, where he was arrested.
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