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What were once serious allegations concerning stolen valor, have now been confirmed.
The U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday that Bill Wenzel, one-time candidate for Fifth District Supervisor and former commander of the Lone Pine Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8036, pleaded guilty to a single charge of âfalsely altering military discharge certificatesâ and was sentenced to 50 hours of community service on Oct. 15, 2010. The community service was in lieu of a $500 fine.
Lauren Horwood, public information officer for the Eastern California branch of the DOJ in Fresno, said that the charge of âfalsely claiming of awardsâ was âterminated.â Wenzel was originally charged by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in May 2010.
Horwood also commented that the turn-around for this case was very quick.
The charges stemmed from investigations by members of Post 8036 into Wenzelâs record. According to the anonymous members looking into Wenzelâs record, the matter had been a topic of discussion and quarrel for years. When these detractors brought forth information, such as Wenzelâs altered discharge papers, to the post commander and board, the allegations were dismissed and the whistle-blowers demoted or asked to leave the post. This was in 2004 before the 2005 Stolen Valor Act that made these false claims illegal.
In May 2010, these anonymous detractors came to The Inyo Register with a copy of Wenzelâs DD-214 and eye witness accounts that the FBI was investigating Wenzel. The FBI confirmed that an investigation was on-going into Wenzel at that time.
The controversy surrounded Wenzelâs discharge papers and alleged citations of merit.
On Wenzelâs military discharge papers, known as DD-214, additional merits and awards were typed onto the form with a different typewriter than had been used for the rest of the form, according to the anonymous whistleblowers.
According to his DD-214, Wenzel was stationed in Okinawa, Japan in 1972 and worked in a warehouse, where he supposedly earned two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and, one of the most coveted military medals, a Silver Star.
The story of Wenzelâs âstolen valorâ charges has been the topic of discussion and articles appearing on websites such as glocktalk.com and pownetwork.org.
Jim Rowoldt, Californiaâs VFW adjunct and quartermaster, said that local posts are autonomous and can apply disciplinary actions, such as removing the imposters from the VFW.
There was another issue of whether or not Wenzel had served in the military at all. Horwood could not comment on that issue. But, she said there was no stipulation in his sentencing that prevented him from being a member of the VFW.
Tenth District Commander Stoney Louden could not be reached for comment before press time nor could anyone from Post 8036. It is unsure whether or not Wenzel will still be allowed membership to the VFW.