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Marine veteran admits to defrauding charities

Feb. 20, 2013 - 01:55PM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 20, 2013 - 01:55PM  |  
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DALLAS A Marine veteran lied about having war injuries so he could get free golfing lessons, endorsements, cash, a trip to Iraq and to fulfill his dream of playing golf on the PGA tour, court documents show.

Court documents filed in Dallas on Tuesday show that Michael Duye Campbell has agreed to plead guilty to mail fraud. The plea agreement does not recommend a sentence but outlines that Campbell faces up to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and payment of restitution to those he deceived. A judge must still approve the plea deal.

Campbell defrauded charities out of at least $40,000 by claiming he was wounded in 2003 while on foot patrol in Fallujah, Iraq, according to court documents. He told people that members of his unit were killed by a bomb blast and that he woke up months later at Walter Reed Army Hospital. He claimed he could not speak, had partially lost his memory and was left with a stutter as a result of his injuries that included broken bones and a traumatic brain injury, an outline of his case filed in court Tuesday says.

Campbell, 30, lived in the Dallas area as recently as 2010. Military records show he served in the Marine Corps from 2000 to 2004, but the records do not support his claim that he was a combat veteran who suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Campbell's public defender, Douglas Morris, declined to comment on the case.

However, at least one of the charities prosecutors says was deceived told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Campbell met all of its criteria to receive assistance. "He never claimed combat related injuries," John Smith, spokesman for Operation Homefront, said.

To be eligible to receive aid from the charitiy, Smith explained, applicants must demonstrate they served in the armed forces and prove that they were injured or are ill. Campbell submitted documentation that was verified as legal and those documents were sufficient for the type of aid he received, Smith added. He did not provide details as to what illness, if any, Campbell might have claimed to have had.

Other charities did not return phone calls seeking comment Wednesday.

Prosecutors say Campbell set up a website to promote his cause and that he approached celebrities in the golf world to ask for support. He would persuade them to write stories about him, give him access to expensive golf schools and exclusive courses.

He eventually learned about the Troops First Foundation, a charity led by former professional golfer and TV golf commentator David Feherty.

Feherty wrote an article for golf.com about meeting Campbell at a golf tournament in 2010. "When he told me he was a Marine, I was instantly fine with it. He didn't look injured, but I didn't care. Any member of the military can walk with me, anytime, anywhere," Feherty wrote.

In December 2010, the Troops First Foundation flew Campbell to Dubai, where he took a military transport to Fallujah, as part of a program in which wounded veterans are taken to the site where they were injured, according to court documents.

Documents show he also lied to other charities, obtaining money for a car and car insurance, living expenses and golf tournament entry fees. He also received golf gear from sporting goods companies, the documents say.

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