URBANA, ILL. – A former sailor who defrauded the government of more than $280,000 and falsely claimed to be a Navy SEAL will spend the next 27 months in prison.
Robert J. Warren, 45, of Sullivan, Ill. claimed to be a member of the elite counter-terrorism unit SEAL Team Six, a Prisoner of War in two combat operations, and to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He fraudulently received $166,116 in Veteran’s benefits and $114,005 in Social Security benefits due to his purported service-related disabilities.
Warren plead guilty to twelve felony counts: six counts of wire fraud, four counts of mail fraud, one count of making a false statement, and one for Social Security fraud.
Judge Michael P. McCuskey sentenced Warren to 27 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Warren will also have to pay back $280,161 in restitution and a $1200 special assessment fee which is mandated by Congress.
Following his sentencing, the judge ordered that Warren be immediately taken into custody.
In front of a courtroom with numerous veterans and at least one former Navy SEAL in attendance, prosecutors displayed photographic evidence of Warren wearing multiple medals he did not earn, the Navy SEAL trident on his uniform, and a tattoo of the SEAL trident on his leg.
Warren stated in an interview with the Associated Press that the SEAL story was a ploy to “pick up girls.”
According to Bobby Cox, the executive director of the UDT-SEAL Association, there is no record of Warren even attending Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL school, let alone being a member of SEAL Team Six. He claimed to have fought in Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, and Somalia, but according to Naval records, there is no evidence that Warren ever participated in combat.
Larry Gillespie – a service representative for the Veteran’s Administration, states that Warren claimed to have been captured following a parachute drop, but was rescued by Force Reconnaissance Marines before he was technically considered a Prisoner of War.
Retired SEAL commander Captain Larry Murphy stated in an interview that no Navy SEAL has never been a Prisoner of War.
According to Special Agent John Jones of the Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General, Warren claimed to have witnessed an incident on the USS Hunley that left a sailor badly burned. Warren convinced government agents that he was so traumatized that he became eligible for benefits.
Ricky Bell, the sailor who was actually injured in the 1984 incident, does not receive disability payments.
Prosecutors – and Bell – determined that Warren could not have possibly witnessed the event.
Despite pleading guilty in January, Warren maintained in a May 1 article that he did witness the incident from a catwalk below. He also stated that his disabilities are real, and that he plead guilty only on the advise of his legal counsel.
When questioned by the judge, Warren stated that he was misquoted by the Associated Press writer.
McCuskey stated that the relatively light sentence was the “fault of Congress,” who set mandatory incarceration limits on fraud and theft. The judge gave Warren the maximum sentence possible, but added that he was “not sure that’s going to deter anybody.”Z
Photo caption: Robert J. Warren was sentenced for defrauding the government and falsely claiming to be a Navy SEAL. This photo was taken at a Chicago bar.[Photo used with permission, Don Malin; all rights reserved]