TAMPA - A Tampa man was sentenced to 3-years probation today, after pleading guilty to federal charges of violating the Stolen Valor Act.
Eight months ago, an ABC Action News investigation caught Angel Ocasio parading around Tampa dressed as a US Marine and falsely boasting about earning one of the nation’s highest military honors.
ABC Action News uncovered the Tampa case of Stolen Valor after local veterans say federal authorities ignored their complaints.
“I reported it to the FBI, and they blew it off saying it was a Marine Corps problem. I reported it to NCIS and they blew it off. Nothing definite happened until Action News got involved,” said Jack Skelding of the Marine Corps League.
Ocasio has come a long way since October when we confronted him at a local American Legion hall wearing a Marine uniform and boasting about winning the Navy Cross, the nation’s second highest military honor. At the time, he told us he wasn’t faking - despite the fact we discovered he never served a day in the military.
Today, in a courtroom packed with some of the Marine Veterans who were fooled at VFW's and American Legion Halls around Tampa Bay, Ocasio apologized. “Right now I’m so ashamed and so embarrassed I just hoped they forgive me for my actions,” he said after the proceedings.
After the story aired on ABC Action News, Ocasio was charged under the Stolen Valor Act which makes it illegal wear or claim to have won awards of valor.
For stealing the valor, which so many Marines earned with their blood and their lives, Magistrate Mark Pizzo sentenced Ocasio to 3 years probation and 120 hours of community service with a veteran's organization.
In court, prosecutors called Ocasio's actions "reprehensible," but some veterans weren't satisfied with the sentence.
"I don't think this punishment was severe enough. Putting him on probation for three years and recommending he do volunteer work at the VA hospital is completely unsatisfactory," said Skelding of the Marine Court League.
They may not have gotten the sentencing they were hoping for but they did get the explanation they were seeking.
"I was stupid. That was it. It was the wrong thing that I did. Bad judgment, that was it. I didn't mean to hurt anybody,” Ocasio said, as he left the courtroom.
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