Tyler, TX Man Pleads Guilty To Using Stolen Valor To Scam Investors
We have an update to a story we told you about back in January where a Tyler man was indicted on federal charges that he pretended to be a military war hero to scam money out of investors.
First, What Is Stolen Valor?
The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 makes it illegal to fraudulently wear medals, embellish rank, or make false claims of military service to obtain money, employment, property, or some other tangible benefit.
Feds Say That Derek Robert Hamm Used Stolen Valor To Defraud Investors
According to court documents, Hamm invented a persona of being a wealthy and successful war hero. Hamm held himself out to be a former member of the Army Special Forces who had served multiple tours of duty in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries. He claimed to have been awarded a Purple Heart, Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Distinguished Service Cross for his service.
Hamm Also Claimed To Be Related To An Oil Tycoon
Hamm also represented that he was related to Harold Hamm, the billionaire oilman in Oklahoma, which he claimed gave him access to financial resources and oil industry expertise. Through this larger-than-life persona, Hamm created an extensive network of friends who introduced him to potential investors. Those investors believed Hamm’s claims and invested in what they expected to be worthwhile ventures spearheaded by a trustworthy and capable entrepreneur.
In reality, Derek Hamm was nothing of the sort.
Hamm was not a decorated war hero. He was no oil industry tycoon. He was not related to Harold Hamm. He did not spend investors’ funds on the latest oil industry technology or new oil wells. Within hours of receiving investors’ funds, Hamm spent their money on himself and his family, including expensive jewelry, vehicles, and vacations to expensive resorts on private charter planes. All the while, Hamm represented to investors that he had invested their money in successful oil industry projects. Because of the Hamm war hero persona, the investors trusted Hamm even as their invested funds failed to produce any returns.
Hamm pleaded guilty to multiple charges in Federal Court On Thursday June 23rd.
Hamm, 38, pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering, violating the Stolen Valor Act, using a fraudulent military discharge certificate, and being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition. Hamm was convicted in Smith County in 2020 for theft of property, a state felony. As a felon, Hamm is prohibited by federal law from owning or possessing firearms or ammunition. As part of the plea agreement, Hamm agreed to pay restitution of at least $2.3 million and forfeiture of the proceeds of his criminal conduct, including jewelry, automobiles, and cash proceeds in the amount of $1,675,000.