Man arrested, accused of stolen valor

February 6, 2010 7:33:11 AM PST
He looks like a soldier. He says he's a soldier. But he's not a soldier. And now he is facing charges for lying about his resume. When we started asking questions, so did the FBI. The man, who the FBI says is nothing but a fraud, even showed up in a military uniform at Houston Mayor Annise Parker's inauguration. The problem is that he didn't earn any of the medals he was wearing.

Michael Patrick McManus was arrested Friday night after a federal judge signed a warrant for his arrest. The FBI says he was arrested without incident.

A blog reads like an old time wanted poster: Wanted for stolen valor. Do you know this man? Reward.

"Just looking at the guy, the appearance is that he was a truly decorated serviceman," said a man who took the photos of McManus.

The picture of McManus was taken at Mayor Parker's victory party in December. The man who shot it is retired military. He sent six pictures to us though he didn't want to be identified. He spoke with us by phone about why he was so suspicious seeing all the awards on this man's uniform.

That was kind of my initial indication that you know what, something here doesn't add up. It doesn't look right," he said.

The medals included two distinguished service crosses, the second-highest award for valor given by the Army. Even a purple heart.

"The parachute badge. That's the basic parachute badge," said a military expert.

What's more experts say around his neck appears to indicate he is the Commander of the British Empire.

"He's got so many, if you take out the list of decorations, it looks like he just went and collected every one and slapped them on his chest," John Bradley said.

Bradley is a retired U.S. Army Officer, a graduate of the Military Academy at West Point and he teaches courses in military history at the University of Houston-Downtown and Rice University. We asked him to look at the pictures for us.

"It strikes me as overwhelming, in the sense that anybody who had that many awards would be very, very, very rare. As young as he was, there's no possibility he could have earned those types of awards," Bradley said.

He also said the chin whiskers are a dead giveaway. He says no true serviceman would dishonor the uniform by appearing in public with facial hair.

The FBI now identifies the man in the picture as Michael Patrick McManus. We tracked McManus to an address in Houston where we attempted to get his side of this story on at least five occasions. A man who answered the door the first time claimed the man in the picture wasn't him.

However on another visit, another man at the house told us the man in the picture has lived at the address. Neighbors said he sure looks like the guy in the picture.

"He was always kind of strange," said one neighbor.

The pictures ignited a flurry of bloggers attempting to figure out who was parading around town as this highly-decorated war hero. They pushed to expose what they see as improper and illegal, saying "the violations of uniform regs are legion" and "This is illegal as per the Stolen Valor Act and this guy needs to go to jail. This has been a cancer for a long time, but with the internet we can do what other generations could not."

John Breiden, the past National Commander for American Legion, said the pictures made him angry.

"This, in my opinion, is someone who wants to be a hero, wants to be thought of as a hero, and they don't deserve it. There's a lot of people that have earned that right and this is not one of them," said Breiden.

The man who took these pictures wanted to expose him to protect the legitimate honors earned by so many.

"Don't steal somebody else's honor and valor and service to their country by wearing something you're not supposed to be wearing or that you haven't earned in the first place," he said.

Again we've made several attempts to contact Michael Patrick McManus, the man who the FBI says is in the picture. He has not returned our calls or emails. McManus is now in federal custody charged with stolen valor. He is scheduled to appear in court first thing Monday morning. The Army is also investigating this incident.

We should note that we contacted Mayor Parker's office to see if anyone there knew of this person. Parker's spokesperson says they don't know him and that her victory party was open to the public.

In 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law the Stolen Valor Act. Anyone convicted in connection with impersonating a member of the military or stealing medals could receive up to a year in federal prison.


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