In the first known prosecution in Nevada under the Stolen Valor Act, a former Veterans Affairs employee pleaded not guilty today in U.S. District Court to charges of theft of government property and unauthorized wearing of a military medal, the Purple Heart.
With a walking cane in hand and wearing a Navy blue sports coat, David M. Perelman, 56, of Las Vegas, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lawrence Leavitt, saying, “Yes, your honor,” and “Yes, I do,” when Leavitt asked if he had read the grand jury indictment and understood the charges.
According to the Oct. 28 indictment, Perelman claimed he had been wounded in combat in Vietnam, when in fact he had been wounded by a self-inflicted gunshot in 1991.
He is also accused of stealing about $180,000 in monthly disability benefits from the Veterans Administration, now known as the Department of Veterans Affairs, from July 1995 until July 2009.
Leavitt set a trial date for Jan. 11, and released Perelman on his own recognizance after Perelman’s court-appointed attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Rene Valladares, argued that he posed no risk of danger and no risk of not appearing for trial.
Perelman, who last year served as Nevada commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, had been working as a clerk at a local VA office for the past three years. He has since resigned following the grand jury indictment, a VA spokesman confirmed today.
During his arraignment, Valladares said Perelman is receiving treatment for mental health problems.
Contact reporter Keith Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0308.