First Amendment

Did Fake Military Hero Rick Strandlof Go On to Pose as a Major Firm Oil and Gas Attorney?

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A man who made headlines in recent years ago after being criminally charged for passing himself off as a decorated American war hero reportedly went on to pretend to be a military veteran working in Denver as an attorney.

After the dismissal, on First Amendment grounds, of a federal case brought under the Stolen Valor Act, the man once known as war hero Rick Duncan before he was unmasked as former mental patient Rick Strandlof is now gaining notoriety as Rick Gold, reports the Denver Post.

While he is not accused of doing anything criminal, the 30-something Gold persuaded his friends in Denver’s trendy Highlands neighborhood and those with whom he socialized in the Jewish community that he was an oil and gas attorney, the newspaper says.

“I really think he created a persona, climbed into it and lived in it,” an unidentified rabbi tells the Post of the “attorney” he now believes to be Strandlof. “It’s not as if he in any way has done anything illegal, besides steal people’s confidence. I told the kids, at least they were scammed by a national figure, not some local three-card-monte guy.”

A LinkedIn account portrayed Rick Gold as an oil and gas lawyer. But the photo it included, purportedly showing Gold with U.S. Sen. Mark Udall of Boulder, is actually a photo of Strandlof with Udall, the senator’s office tells the newspaper. When he was posing as Rick Duncan, Strandlof falsely claimed to have worked for Udall’s office, the Post notes.

The Post attempted without success to reach Strandlof for comment.

In retrospect, it might seem that the quirky claims Strandlof reportedly made while posing as an attorney would have raised questions. He said he quit a position as an attorney at Patton Boggs—a law firm for which he, in fact, never worked—and taken a job as a self-defense instructor, the Post recounts, because the law firm restricted his duties after he was held in contempt of court for making fun of a judge’s toupee.

But what is believed to be his true identity was revealed after a former candidate for state office saw Strandlof working at a booth for a pro-Israel group. Putting the pieces together, the candidate contacted the group’s director and told her who Strandlof was.

The dismissal of the criminal case against Strandlof under the Stolen Valor Act is still being appealed.

Additional and related coverage:

ABA Journal: “Rumors of War Medals: The First Amendment May Protect Lying About Military Awards”

Denver Post (June 2009): “Many faces of ‘fake vet’ Rick Strandlof exposed”

Denver Post (Oct. 2009): “Phony Marine due for arrest”

Denver Post (Sept. 2010): “Efforts to punish phony GIs may be pushed to Supreme Court”

Los Angeles Times (July 2009): “The story of the Marine who wasn’t”

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