The General Assembly today approved legislation (2022-H 7714A, 2022-S 2425A) sponsored by Rep. Samuel A. Azzinaro and Sen. Roger A. Picard which would make “stolen valor” a crime.
The legislation would make it a crime to fraudulently represent oneself as an active or veteran member of the military or armed forces for the purpose of obtaining money, property or other tangible benefits. The crime would be a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of not more than a year, or a fine of $1,000, or both.
“The sacrifices that our military members make in order to ensure our freedom and safety should never be taken lightly and any individual who pretends through fraud to be one of these brave and selfless heroes should be held accountable for their gross deception,” said Representative Azzinaro, Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (D-Dist. 37, Westerly).
“Our nation’s service members and veterans have earned the respect of the public and we owe them our gratitude for all the sacrifices they’ve made on our behalf. Those who have never served but who try to cash in on that respect are doing a disservice to veterans and service members, and should be held accountable,” said Senator Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland)
The act was introduced due to the recent case of a North Kingstown VFW commander who was found to have used falsified military records in order to portray herself as a veteran when in fact she had never served in the military. The individual collected thousands of dollars from non-profits through her deception.
In addition to falsely wearing military uniforms or using falsified military identification, the law would also include falsely representing oneself as a recipient of the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross and other military decorations.
The legislation now heads to the governor’s desk for consideration.
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