San Francisco Chronicle: RIVERSIDE, CALIF. -- A Palm Springs man who surprised former classmates at his high school reunion in Martinez when he showed up in a Marine Corps uniform has pleaded guilty to wearing military medals that he never earned.
Steven Douglas Burton, 39, entered his guilty plea Monday in U.S. District Court in Riverside to a misdemeanor count of unauthorized wearing of military medals or decorations, averting a trial that had been scheduled for January.
He will face as much as a year in prison and up to a $100,000 fine when he is sentenced March 1. He remains free on $10,000 bond.
Burton, a graduate of Alhambra High School in Martinez, never served in the military, let alone fought in Iraq or Afghanistan, as he claimed. He works at a bank in Palm Springs.
In October 2008, he showed up at his 20th high school reunion at the Concord Hilton wearing the uniform of a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps.
The uniform displayed the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and other medals. That drew the suspicion of former classmate Colleen Salonga, who is a bona fide Navy commander.
Salonga asked Burton to have his picture taken with her. She turned over the photo to the FBI.
In February 2008, Burton had posted on the Internet a picture of himself standing on a beach at Coronado Island in San Diego County, not far from a Navy training base, wearing the uniform of a Marine master gunnery sergeant.
Federal and military investigators confirmed that Burton had never been in the armed forces.
Burton's attorney, Michael DeFrank, said Wednesday, "There is little more I can say about the case, except that more will be revealed about Mr. Burton at the time of the sentencing hearing."
Burton is one of 50 to 60 people who have been charged under the Stolen Valor Act since President George W. Bush signed the law in 2006.
The act, which expanded a law that had applied only to the unauthorized wearing of the Medal of Honor, makes it illegal to wear, make, sell or falsely claim to have earned military decorations.
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