Phony Hero Comes Clean

A New York City man, who was exposed for wearing an impressive array of distinguished service decorations he did not earn, switched his plea to guilty today, one day before his trial was set to begin.

Louis Lowell McGuinn, 68, claimed to be a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army, often appearing at military events sporting such distinguished medals as the Purple Heart, the Silver Star and the Distinguished Service Cross, according to the complaint in his case.

But law enforcement officials say it was just a ruse, according to the complaint, and McGuinn had actually been discharged as a private from the Army in 1968 with none of the decorations he wore.

McGuinn's ploy started to unravel after the executive director of the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines & Airmen Club learned McGuinn could not provide documentation for his honors, and the director subsequently notified authorities in 2006.

McGuinn was later caught on camera at a social event at the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan, wearing several distinguished medals and badges.

FBI agents arrested him last April and charged him with wearing medals without authorization, the charge to which he pleaded guilty.

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According to the complaint, McGuinn said he chose to "reinvent" himself after leaving the Army "to provide himself some maturity when applying for employment." In fact, the complaint says McGuinn secured two consecutive six-month contracts as a consultant with "an underwater marine security company that frequently works with government agencies as well as private clients" as a result of his feigned identity.

McGuinn faces a maximum of six months in prison, a fine of $5,000 and a maximum one-year supervised release. His sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 12, 2008.

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