An Army veteran faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine in a March sentencing hearing after pleading guilty to lying about a fake tour in Afghanistan and Purple Heart and Silver Star medals he didn’t earn.
Gregg Ramsdell, 61, of Columbus, Georgia, pleaded guilty in early December to one count of false statements and one count of violation of the Stolen Valor Act. He’s scheduled for sentencing on March 23.
In 2014, Ramsdell claimed to officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs that he “witnessed horrible atrocities” while deployed to Afghanistan from October 2008 to March 2009, according to court records.
He told VA staff that he saw “men, women and children being executed. Women holding babies while detonating themselves. IED explosions causing severe bodily injuries and death. Retrieving body parts and bagging them. Having blood and body excrements being blown onto my uniform.”
Ramsdell said that he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, and as a result was, “unable to live a normal life.”
He also claimed he suffered from “recurring dreams, anxiety and fears of places with large groups of people.”
The VA approved him for added PTSD benefits at a 70 percent rating in June 2015. That was retroactive to his discharge date. He received payments until July 2019, for a total of $76,000, related to his PTSD claim, according to court documents.
Ramsdell had served, on and off, on active duty, in the Army National Guard, the Air National Guard and the Army Reserve since his enlistment in 1981. He was honorably discharged in June 2014.
One of the many problems with his claim: He wasn’t in Afghanistan when he said he was.
A federal grand jury indicted him in August. As part of his plea agreement, he must pay back $76,000 in restitution.
Ramsdell later admitted to FBI investigators that he lied about having PTSD at all.
“Faking serious wartime injuries to gain undeserved benefit, and claiming valor where there is none, do a disservice to our brave veterans and service members who selflessly risk their lives protecting this country,” said U.S. Attorney Charlie Peeler. “Fraud of this kind and theft of taxpayer money will not be tolerated, and we will continue to prosecute those who commit such crimes.”
The investigation also found that Ramsdell had listed both the Purple Heart with Cluster and the Silver Star Medal on his application for a civilian job at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 2017.
He got the job of logistics management specialist with a base salary of $53,137.
“Ramsdell’s actions are an insult to every veteran who has served our country, and in particular every veteran who suffered physical or mental trauma because of their honorable commitment and valor,” said Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of FBI Atlanta. “The FBI is committed to seeking justice for anyone who lies about serving our country, and who illegally takes money from federal programs that help veterans who rightfully deserve it.”
The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 makes it a criminal offense for individuals to falsely claim military status and awards to claim “money, employment, property or other tangible benefits,” according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.