Former U.S. Marine Brandon Ryan Blackstone admitted to lying about receiving a Purple Heart Medal for his own monetary gain and was finally sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn. Brandon Blackstone had utilized details from the tragic story of a fellow Marine, the late Casey Owens. Owens, who had PTSD, a traumatic brain injury, and lost his legs when his Humvee struck a landmine in 2004, committed suicide in October 2014.
Blackstone was in the same unit as Owens. He was even near the humvee when it exploded. According to Marines that were deployed with the two, Brandon Blackstone was 400 yards away when the explosion that left Owens permanently disabled happened.
After nearly a decade of collecting benefits for a war disability he didn't have, Brandon Blackstone had faced up to 21 years in prison for the case of stolen valor with monetary benefits, according to the Aspen Times. The former Marine pleaded guilty to fraudulent representation about the receipt of a military decoration for financial gain and wire fraud on September 15 in Arlington, Texas.
Blackstone was given a mortgage-free residence in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2012 from Military Warrior Support Foundation, because he lied and said he was a Purple Heart recipient. He also somehow managed to get disability checks for almost ten years from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs!
"I don't think this young man targeted Casey or his family," Janna Dunkel, Casey Owens mother told The Aspen News. "I think it was a convenient, familiar story for him to allow him to go on with his life. What he suffered, what happened to him — I don't know why he did this. The question is: How was he able to get away with this? How did he get benefits? I know personally how hard it is to get benefits from the VA or the government."
The real Purple Heart recipient's mother had told the Aspen News that she didn't think Blackstone should get 21 years in prison because she didn't believe Blackstone had any intention of hurting anyone when he committed the fraud.
"He broke the law and he took the benefits he wasn't entitled to, but the fact that the man could go to prison for 21 years and you look at what other people get away with."U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas announced that Chief U.S. District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn sentenced Blackstone this month.
"Falsely claiming military honors is disgraceful by itself," said U.S. Attorney Parker. "But to do so for financial gain is particularly despicable."
The former Marine was sentenced to only a fraction of the maximum sentence he could have been handed. Brandon Ryan Blackstone was sentenced to 21 months in a federal prison."This conviction demonstrates the VA Office of Inspector General's unwavering commitment to protect the programs intended to assist veterans that have served this nation and rightfully earned their benefits," Special Agent in Charge James Werner at the VA Office of Inspector General said.
Blackstone became a Marine in 2004 and served until 2006. Blackstone was deployed from August 28, 2004, through September 30, 2004, according to the Department of Justice. Blackstone applied for compensation and/or pension from the Department of Veterans Affairs in July of 2006 claiming that he sustained multiple injuries from a blast that occurred when his Humvee struck a landmine. Blackstone also told the examiner at the Dallas VA Medical Center that he had multiple injuries from the blast. Then, Blackstone submitted two forged and fake witness statements to support his fake story. By fall, he was awarded disability benefits from the VA.
Then, in February of 2012, Blackstone submitted an online application to the Military Warrior Support Foundation (MWSF) for a free home. In that application, Blackstone told MWSF, a nonprofit organization, that he was awarded a Purple Heart Medal for injuries sustained during an explosion when the vehicle he was driving struck an anti-tank mine while he was on patrol. He was scheduled to be given the free home in November 2015, because he had a Purple Heart and claimed he needed their help.
Justin Sparks, Blackstone's attorney, said that Blackstone was extremely pleased with the short sentence. It was the minimum sentence allowed by law. Sparks also added that Brandon Blackstone would have qualified for disability benefits on his own, as a result of genuine PTSD that he was suffering from his deployment, according to Star-Telegram. Sparks said that Blackstone never needed to steal Owens' story to qualify for disability payments.
According to NBC, Blackstone had even interviewed with the news station in 2012. He told NBC that he had to be medevaced home from his deployment. He said that he suffered a traumatic brain injury when the blast occurred.
"I was blown up while I was there. I had to be medevaced home."In the courtroom where Blackstone was ordered to pay more than $300,000 in restitution and for other penalties, the former Marine apologized to the judge saying, "I'm so sorry for all the problems I've caused."
At the sentencing, Blackstone's lawyer said that the former Marine still suffers mental illness from his deployment and asked that Brandon Blackstone be imprisoned in Fort Worth Federal Prison for the duration of his incarceration because the facility can provide the proper medical care for the veteran.
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