Stolen valor suspect awarded himself top U.S. military medals

Port St. Lucie police say it wasn’t enough for Edward Liroff to claim he served in the Army when he hadn’t. Cops say the accused valor-stealer went all out and gave himself some of the most respected military medals for heroism while he was at it.

“He never served a day in the military,” officer Joseph Byrne said at a small press conference the police department posted video of on its Facebook page. “Everything about him is fraudulent.”

Police arrested the 46-year-old on April 3 for giving the city a fraudulent military discharge form known as a DD214 in March. The city has veterans preferences for hiring, and the DD214 was eye-catching for several reasons. Mike Lubek at the city’s neighborhood services contacted Byrne, who’s a military veteran, to look it over.

Wayne Teegardin, who manages the county’s veteran services, said Port St. Lucie police asked him to look it over, too. One thing immediately caught Teegardin’s attention. The discharge papers listed Liroff’s date of birth in 1972, and his date of entry into the Army in 1988.

“He’d gone in at 16 years old, and that doesn’t happen,” Teegardin said. What grabbed his attention next, Teegardin said, was at once comical and infuriating. Liroff’s allegedly forged DD214 said he was a war hero who’d been awarded two Purple Hearts, the medal given to those seriously injured in combat and certain other situations such as a terrorist attack.

There’s no way to know how many Purple Heart recipients live in the Sunshine State. However, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles issues Purple Heart car tags when requested to those who’ve received the military medal. There are 12,000 such tags in Florida.

Startling is that Liroff had one and the veteran designation on his driver’s license.

In addition to the Purple Hearts, Liroff’s DD214 lists other prestigious medals including the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Air Medal for Valor, the Legion of Merit and others. Federal and state laws make falsely claiming to have earned certain military honors for financial gain or other tangible benefits a felony.

Teegardin said he called the Department of Veteran Affairs’ medical center in West Palm Beach. Its catchment area includes St. Lucie County. Turns out, Teegardin and police say, that Liroff was receiving medical and counseling services at the VA. At the press conference, Byrne said those services included group counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder.

“He’s basically been able to fool the State of Florida and the Department of Veteran Affairs and employers, too,” Byrne said.

Additionally, Byrne said Liroff was attempting to get other benefits from the VA.

“I do know for a fact he applied to get veterans disabilities benefits from the VA, but he hasn’t gotten them,” the officer said.

At the press conference Byrne said Port St. Lucie police contacted and is cooperating with the VA’s inspector general’s office. The VA has sworn law enforcement officers and investigators. Byrne said Liroff faces four state felony charges. “There’ll be federal charges after this,” he said.

Teegardin said stolen valor scammers have long angered veterans and veterans organizations to varying degrees. He said there are, of course, those who greatly exaggerate their service, and some who claim military service they never did. Teegardin said that’s something veterans usually laugh off when it’s done solely for attention.

There are some who greatly exaggerate or make up military service who are trying to profit from it somehow. Examples range from street-level con artists using claimed military service for sympathy, to people running scam charities.

Teegardin said Liroff was among the most heinous instances of stolen valor – those who’ve taken various benefits earned by legitimate veterans.

“This is big-time,” Teegardin said.

Byrne lives on Southwest Michelangelo Avenue in Port St. Lucie. At press time he’s in the St. Lucie County Jail with a $15,000 bond.

In addition to charges related to allegedly using a falsified DD214 to obtain veterans preference for employment, the Port St. Lucie police charged Liroff with falsifying information to the state in order to get the veterans designation on his driver’s license and the Purple Heart tag.  

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