Former Las Vegan pleads guilty to possessing phony military ID

Richard Reginald Cruze Jr., a former Las Vegas man known as Jacob R. Cruze who posed as a highly decorated Army colonel, has pleaded guilty in a Virginia court to two fraud felonies related to a forged military document.

Cruze, 55, was arrested Feb. 2 in Leesburg, Va., on three felony fraud charges and one misdemeanor.

A Leesburg police detective who investigated a tip about Cruze claiming to be a medical doctor for a weight-loss clinic confiscated a phony military identification that Cruze had used to obtain license plates reserved for Special Forces veterans.

On Friday, Cruze pleaded guilty before Loudoun County Circuit Court Chief Judge James H. Chamblin for possessing a forged public document — in this case a fake military ID — and falsifying an application to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles for the Special Forces license plates.

He is scheduled to be sentenced April 13. Combined, the offenses carry minimum jail time of 14 months to 18 months in addition to fines.

A source close to the case said the prosecution and the public defender who represented Cruze agreed to drop the other felony charge — stating a fake military ID was legitimate — and the misdemeanor for lying about being a doctor at a weight-loss clinic.

Assistant Common­wealth Attorney Angela Vernail has said there is nothing in Virginia law that would prohibit Cruze from being prosecuted under the federal Stolen Valor Act, which targets impostors who make false claims about military titles and valor awards.

The U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia has not prosecuted anyone under the Stolen Valor Act, which is under review by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the issue of free speech.

In 2004 in Las Vegas, Cruze raised the suspicions of former Army Rangers when he showed up at the Riviera for their annual conference wearing a dress-blue uniform bearing a colonel insignia and numerous ribbons and medals on his jacket. But when he was asked about his military career by attendees, his comments didn’t fit with events, locations and dates of military operations.

A month before the conference, Cruze spoke to fifth-graders gathered for a career day event at a Las Vegas elementary school, where he wore a green Class A Army uniform and a display of ribbons. A source familiar with his career day presentation said he gave the students a "drill sergeant" routine and later remarked that he hoped he hadn’t been too hard on the students.

Cruze posted a résumé with a nursing organization that said he served in Vietnam from June 1969 to September 1970 as a combat medic and had earned the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Cross of Gallantry, Soldiers Medal and the Army Distinguished Service Medal.

Records obtained from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis under the Freedom of Information Act by a watchdog group, the POW Network, show Cruze never served in combat and received no valor awards or decorations. Instead, he is listed as an Army reservist from July 21, 1988, to Jan. 3, 1994, who served on inactive status for a hospital unit in Phoenix.

In 2005, a Las Vegas police detective who was part of an FBI task force investigated Cruze for driving with Nevada license plates reserved for wounded war veterans. The detective confiscated Cruze’s Nevada Purple Heart license tags, but the U.S. attorney’s office declined to charge Cruze with violations of the Stolen Valor Act, citing limited resources and personnel.

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