Silver Star fake from Sacramento avoids jail, loses police job

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A former Marine corporal and police officer has avoided jail time after pretending to be a war hero, but he will never serve in law enforcement again and must serve 200 hours of community service and 12 months of probation, authorities said.

Eric Piotrowski, 41, of Elk Grove, Calif., was sentenced Monday in U.S. district court in Sacramento, Calif., for violating the Stolen Valor Act, which prohibits falsely claiming or wearing unearned military decorations. He will be required to perform his community service at a veterans hospital or similar facility, U.S. authorities said in news release.

Former Cpl. Eric Piotrowski

Former Cpl. Eric Piotrowski was arrested and charged May 8 with one misdemeanor count of violating the Stolen Valor Act and one felony count of lying to agents investigating his case.


Piotrowski pleaded guilty on Sept. 15 to claiming a fraudulent Silver Star, which he said he earned for braving direct enemy fire while covering an antitank team in 1991 during the Gulf War. U.S. Attorney Michelle Rodriguez previously told Marine Corps Times that under a plea agreement, a felony count of lying to FBI agents investigating the case could be dropped in exchange for him serving the community service, which she called “poetic justice.”

U.S. authorities also ordered Piotrowski, an officer with the California Exposition & State Fair Police Department at the time of his May 8 arrest, to turn in his peace officer’s certification from the state of California and banned him from serving in law enforcement ever again.

In 2007, Piotrowski was honored by the California Department of Veterans Affairs, with California VA Undersecretary Roger Brautigan presenting him with a Silver Star in his home.

Authorities said this year that the medal was never earned and that a citation read by Brautigan — a retired two-star Army general — during the award ceremony was fraudulent. It said Piotrowski earned the medal for actions in 1991, when he supposedly put himself in harm’s way to allow “breaching units” to move forward, provided suppressive fire to cover an anti-tank team, and guided separated elements of his unit through enemy forces after an assault on Iraqi defenses near Kuwait International Airport.

The citation was wrought with details inconsistent with history and Piotrowski’s own DD Form 214, a document that describes a service member’s assignments and awards upon military separation.

Piotrowski’s service record shows he did not serve in 1st Force Recon and did not earn either version of the Kuwaiti Liberation Medal. The medals were awarded by the Saudi Arabian government to any service member with direct participation in Desert Storm and by the Kuwaiti government for participation in either Desert Storm or Desert Shield.

Piotrowski served from November 1986 to July 1991, according to his Military Report of Separation. His records show that he spent most of his career as a rifleman with infantry units at Camp Pendleton, Calif., but did not see combat.

Marine Corps Times began investigating the case in December 2008, before FBI agents charged Piotrowski. In a Dec. 3 phone interview, he expressed surprise when his citation was questioned, saying he was first notified he rated the Silver Star in 2007 after he sought his military medical records. That prompted an audit of his service record, he said, adding that he later received the citation from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.

Pressed on the details of his purported actions in Kuwait, Piotrowski said he remembered the event, “but I don’t recall the specifics of it.”

“I remember being on a Humvee and providing fire support,” he said. “We were out there trying to provide fire support so that we could move the mission forward. That was it.”

By Dan Lamothe,
www.marinecorpstimes.com

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