TAMPA - An ABC Action News investigation has uncovered a blatant violation of "The Stolen Valor Act of 2005," the federal law that makes it illegal for anyone to fraudulently claim to have earned a medal of valor in military service to the nation.
Marines live by a simple set of rules: "Duty, honor and country" and "Once a Marine, always a Marine."
"Courage and Commitment are our core values,” says Lt. General John Allen, the Deputy Commander of Central Command in Tampa.
So when Angel Ocasio began showing up at Tampa area VFW's and American Legion posts wearing his crisp, starched Marine Corps uniform with the stripes of a Master Gunnery Sergeant and a chest full of ribbons, retired Marines like Jack Skelding paid attention.
"I have a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Navy Cross," says Ocasio.
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"I noticed the decorations he was wearing and one of them was the Navy Cross which impressed me."
Why did it impress him?
"Anyone who is a Navy Cross recipient is a hero,” says Skelding.
There's something you should know about the man who identifies himself as Master Gunnery Sgt. Angel Ocasio. He never earned the Navy Cross or any of the medals he wears. He isn't a Master Gunnery Sergeant, and according to the Marine Corps, he's never been a Marine.
According to an email written by Marine Corp Sgt. Major Edgardo Guzman, he checked with Marine Corps headquarters and "They do not have anything on him or his awards."
But Ocasio sure looked the part when he applied for membership at the Marine Corps League detachment in New Port Richey, telling Commander Roger Golden he was still on active duty and stationed at Central Command in Tampa.
"He dressed sharp. His haircut was clean and he seemed to know what he was talking about,” Golden says.
In Riverview, at another Marine Corps League detachment, Ocasio even applied for membership submitting a DD-214, the certificate every vet gets that highlights their military record.
It notes his "Purple Heart" and "Navy Cross" among his many honors.
"We'll I've been all over...Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Somalia, Grenada, Beirut, Panama,” Ocasio boasted at a VFW.
“Not home," says his wife Terry.
Terry is often by Ocasio's side, lamenting the life of a Marine Corps wife.
But eventually, everywhere the couple went, people began getting a little suspicious with every story they'd tell.
"I looked at the list of recipients of the Navy Cross on the internet and his name wasn't on there. Right away, that made me suspicious of him,” says Skelding.
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So the couple kept moving on, from the Marine Corps League in New Port Richey, to the VFW in South Tampa, to an American Legion Post in Tampa where we found them on a recent Friday night.
They certainly weren't shy when we took out the cell phone camera.
When we ask how long he'd been in the Corps, Ocasio answered, "30-years."
"Too long," his wife Terry chimed in.
We confronted Ocasio outside the American Legion Post that night. When we told him the Marine Corps had never heard of him, he simply answered, "Oh, really?"
Why Ocasio is trying to pass himself off as a Marine is unclear, but he may have bigger problems on his hands.
We asked Ocasio if he had heard of the The Stolen Valor Act of 2005, which is punishable by a year in prison and fines, he said "I'm not faking this," and abruptly left the Post.
Angel left his wife Terry behind, still clutching his white Marine Corps hat. She refused to comment on her husband’s situation.
Copyright 2009 The E.W. Scripps Co. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.