June 10th, 2009
10:13 PM ET

Many faces of 'fake vet' Rick Strandlof exposed

Kevin Simpson
The Denver Post

Editor's Note: Veteran imposter, Rick Strandlof told everyone that he had seved in the military. It turns out all of it was a lie. For more on this story tune in to AC360° tonight.

A tattoo of an angel illustrates his right leg. A devil decorates his left.

But a trail of deceit has stamped Richard Glen Strandlof with another indelible mark: fake military hero who misled veterans, politicians and voters. Many had bought into the story of Rick Duncan, the wounded soldier rallying opposition to the Iraq war and support for struggling vets.

Like the contradictory body art, Strandlof's story winds between malicious deception and actual good works. And it muddies the issue of whether his offense was simply that he fooled the people he purported to champion or that he broke the law.

He awaits arraignment in the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center in Colorado Springs on a misdemeanor traffic charge after his

arrest May 12. And while the FBI is investigating possible fraud, no charges have been filed.
Strandlof, 32, spared no detail in his alleged resume: Annapolis graduate. Marine captain. Survivor of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon. Wounded three-tour veteran of the Iraq war. An American hero who, in his next act, would stand up for his band of military brothers on whatever stage was set before him — from the Capitol steps in Denver to the campaign stump.

He backed mostly Democratic candidates sympathetic to his anti-war views in the run-up to the 2008 election. Beyond politics, he worked on behalf of homeless veterans in Colorado Springs, an effort that earned him widespread respect.


Filed under: 360° Radar
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Terry, TX

    He was a typical creepy radical left....opposition to war at no cost....remember PINK in front of recruiting stations....remember democrats protesting at soldiers burials....democrat celebrities bashing soldiers and America in their "comic" and "entertaining" routines. I am sick of it....it's the same homosexual tactics of invading churches and knocking down old ladies with crosses.

    June 11, 2009 at 10:43 am |
  2. J Cephas-Abram

    Anderson, let's us be honest here. it's always easy for light complexion people to believe each other. They dont question or think when it come to their own, but let it has been a dark complexion person , could have all the paper work in the world and still there be doubt; because negativities is easy to attach. I'm saying this because , many these so call veteran groups came through here Fayetteville, North Carolina , Standing up against the Iraq War. They got paid to speak, travel expensives, a place to stay and meals. They were running around wanting people to join their groups, asking for a copy of the DD Form 214 as a requirement, please! I believe It is time for light complexion people stop overly trusting and believing,and
    not asking question when it come to people that look like them. If there be no change the outcome will always come out the same PIE IN THE FACE

    June 11, 2009 at 9:41 am |
  3. Matt West

    This man has done more good through his lies, than could have done with the tools in his belt. He used his manipulation for good rather then harm leave him be.

    June 11, 2009 at 5:51 am |
  4. Mandy

    Rick Strandlof isn't suffering a mental illness. He, and the people who put him up to this know what they are doing. Rick Strandlof was recruited by anti-war protesters to advance their anti-war agenda by undermining the war effort, changing public perception about the war, and influencing political change.

    After hearing Rick Strandlof interviewed on 360 and the slip he made, which Anderson Cooper missed, has confirmed for me that he was not working alone and was actually recruited to advance the anti-war agenda. The slip that Rick Strandlof made came in the answer he gave to Anderson Cooper when asked whether he did what he did to take money to enrich himself, "We did not take money to enrich ourselves." Rick Strandlof initially stated, then caught himself and repeated what he said using the singular "I". "I did not take money to enrich myself."

    Rick Standlof was telling the truth to Anderson Cooper when he stated "We did not take money to enrich ourselves". No. He did what he did to advance the anti-war agenda and he, and other imposters, have been very successful to date. What these anti-war groups are doing is not only undermining our troops but something even more dangerous – they're undermining our national security by insiduously using "fake" veterans to advance their cause.

    This is not the case of someone "looking for a cause to promote themselves" as Doug Sterner stated on 360. His political activism refutes that assumption. That may be true in some cases but it is not the case of Rick Strandlof. Feigning mental illness is a good way to deflect suspicion from these anti-war groups by trying to make it appear that he was working alone. Feigning mental illness, I'm sure, was also part of the plan should these fake veterans ever get caught.

    I really think you need to investigate this issue fully, possibly even informing the F.B.I. of this possibility, because this is not just the case of a lone nut looking for undeserved glory but is an issue of national security. At the very least this man and these groups should be investigated and if found to have a connection, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I think it is imperative that people know who and what is behind these imposters and what they are trying to accomplish by doing it.

    June 11, 2009 at 4:04 am |
  5. Suzan Nola

    This is in regard to the Strandlof story.

    Can we not go right for the sensationalism on this story. AC just did a phone interview with someone, and it sounded like the spanish inquisition. The man he interviewed compared Strandlof to John Wayne Gasey for goodness sake. Rick Strandlof isn't a seriel killer is he? AC should have stopped him right there – you have amazing power – please use it for good. not evil. make the ridiculous comparisons from stupid people stop. I realize he betrayed some people. I get that. He did some bad things. but I'm just saying

    The man AC interviewed isn't a doctor is he? He has no idea if this young man is mentally ill and is not qualified to make any determinations as to Strandlof's mental state – and he shouldn't even be asked the question.

    This story has been completely missed in my opinion. I read the Denver Post story – and this is a sad story about a very sick young man. A person that suffers from severe mental illness, an illness that yes, makes him a very good con artist. But that is what people with delusions of granduer and personality disorder can do. and He is obviously very intelligent, and very ill. I could see that just from the interview with Anderson. And I was surprised at AC's approach to him. This guy did some bad things, yes – but he is fragile mentally – very fragile, with heightened delusions of granduer and other severe pathological disorders indeed.

    This young man needs to be under close care. This is a story about undiagnosed mental illness!!! And the things that can happen when it is not noticed and addressed. If he is not cared for, does not get some treatment, I really fear that then something really bad will happen.

    But it is certainly sensationalistic reporting to have just some unqualified person call him a serial killer. What is this profession becoming. Please be better. Please. We need news. real journalism. People need to see a difference in what you do and editorial stations like Fox.

    We are a country in turmoil – with crazy people doing all kinds of crazy things – Don't you think that it would be good journalism to address the real story here? Isn't Ironic, since bringing attention to mental problems – (PTSD) is what this young man was involved with -- DUH. Maybe this young man saw that illness, and the veteran homeless problem.... and saw himself! He was transferring a little. A big giant cry for help? Is no one getting this? Geez, does no one use their brains anymore?

    Was he bad yes. did he do something bad, indeed. I don't see where he stole millions of dollars and ruined peoples' lives, like a dozen companies and Madoff. they are evil. big difference between ill and evil.

    June 11, 2009 at 3:30 am |
  6. Kaitlyn Shea

    Truly, I believe that he Rick may be a pathological liar, but look at the good that's come out of it.
    He was capable of inspiring millions.
    He was raised money for veterans, and supported the cause.
    He may have deceived, but you wanted to believe.
    If you had looked close enough, you would have seen the "obvious red flags" that you pointed out.
    People lie constantly, he just happened to tell a lie that he couldn't end.
    His reasons for doing what he did shouldn't matter, he helped.
    People will bounce back and forget about this within a matter of months.
    His lies will NOT affect the veterans cause what-so-ever.
    I don't see why you must be so hard on him.
    His reputation is dead, and his life has slowed.
    I think he's learned his lesson, and even if he hasn't, no one will believe him in the future anyways.
    He can't go far.

    June 11, 2009 at 1:51 am |
  7. stephen

    If national attention is what this Sad Sack wants, CNN has obliged. Regardless of why, it was painful to see him trashed and excoriated. There are lots of 'cop wannabes', etc. Maybe they're just lonely... just like 'Sad Sack'.

    June 11, 2009 at 1:00 am |
  8. Suzanne Pane

    Rick Strandlof's lies are enormously insulting to veterans who have experienced the horrors of war. The lies are an insult to the honor and duty of their service, of their sacrifice.

    I am not persuaded, however, that his lies will negatively impact the veteran's cause at large. The American public will not deny the overwhelmingly important issues our veterans confront. Our loyalty to our heroes is more powerful than one man's lies.

    Mr. Strandlof accomplished a great deal of good for homeless veterans. His lies do not alter this fact. He spoke, albeit misguidedly, for the people that are usually invisible. He spoke for people our society so often ignores.

    He lied and he helped. He lied and he advocated. He lied and he worked to help others. In our difficult world, I don't think we should malign and isolate a man that tried, through a very flawed method certainly, to help people. Possibly good intentions and a passionate willingness to help others ultimately overshadows the insult of the lie?

    He spent years working to help people in need. I hope we can find the compassion to see through the lies and do the same for him. Let's not isolate a contrite mentally ill do-gooder in his time of need.

    June 11, 2009 at 12:39 am |
  9. Brian Reed

    It is difficult to believe this fraud fooled so many for so long. I am an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran who suffers from PTSD, TBI, and shoulder injury. I am in the process of starting a starting a non profit called Pets Assisting Wounded Soldiers (PAWS) thru Anubis providing service dogs to combat veterans suffering from PTSD. I am asked at every step of the way for proof of being a combat veteran. I truly do not understand why he was not asked to provide proof. I feel that this persons actions will hinder those of us who are attempting to assist veterans. People will be less likely to believe in the legitimacy of people like me. It saddens my heart to know veterans will suffer from his actions.

    June 11, 2009 at 12:28 am |
  10. Robin Felber

    We have a similar story in Hawaii. There is a man who for years has conned so many people. He does global human rights work and when not in Hawaii, he tells people at the UN and other groups like Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and many more NGOS and politicians that he is a Professor of Law at the University of Hawaii. He is not~ he has been a lecturer but never a Professor which in the world of academia is quite different. Here in the islands, he tells students that his non-profit is global and gets many people, in particular students and single moms, that if they help his cause, they can work for him and lots of other promises. Turns out, there is no non-profit. It was dissolved years ago. Several students this year filed formal complaints and after investigation, the university has not offered future teaching contracts to him, and he is no longer teaching. However, he is currently telling some people that he is still teaching there and tells others that now he is needed at the UN so he can no longer teach.. Basically, he finds your hot buttons and finds out what he needs to say and do to get what he needs from you and spits that back to you. He gives pathological liar a whole new meaning. His lies are getting more bold. He is still promoting his "non-profit" and conning people left and right and getting contract work, free housing, money, you name it. In fact, I think he now is helping the Khmer Krom with their independence. It is a story too ridiculous to believe. His lies are more bold and it is amazing that here is a guy promoting education, human rights and womens' rights and is a huge violator of these same rights and an unethical educator. The man is Joshua Cooper and the fake non-profit group is The Hawaii Institute for Human Rights. What he is doing is so wrong. For those who have caught-on to his charade, it has them feeling violated and never wanting to volunteer again. It makes all non-profits look like scams to them. I have seen firsthand how it has affected students and my community members. It is sad and frustrating that he is still able to violate people. I think the Attorney General of Hawaii was looking into his non-profit? Anyway, I watch AC360 every night and love the show. Tonight though, this story hit too close to home.

    June 11, 2009 at 12:23 am |