Two Marines from Texas took part in some of the worst fighting in western Iraq, in the early stages of the insurgency.
Both of them left the battlefield early and ended up with Purple Hearts. But one of them didn’t actually earn it.
Casey Owens was critically injured and lost both of his legs when his Humvee hit an anti-tank mine. He committed suicide in 2014, having suffered from numerous surgeries, brain injury and severe pain for a decade.
Brandon Blackstone went home after about a month in Iraq, his military records show.
His medic said that he got appendicitis and did not return.
Blackstone eventually ended up in a Dallas federal courtroom where he pleaded guilty to two felonies for claiming he was “blown up” in a Humvee in Iraq in order to profit personally.
Owens’ Marine buddies say they believe Blackstone took key details of Owens’ combat injury and made them his own, so that he could bilk the government and charities out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Nick Sowers, 38, Owens’ best friend in Iraq who also was wounded in action, said:
He’s living off a fake story. It’s disgusting.
In his guilty plea, Blackstone, 35, admits that he lied about earning a Purple Heart in Iraq, in order to qualify for a mortgage-free house in Fort Worth from a wounded warrior charity.
Blackstone also received monthly disability checks from the Department of Veterans Affairs for about nine years, according to officials.
Blackstone did that by forging two witness statements from Marines who he falsely claimed witnessed his war injury, according to federal court records.
Federal officials have not yet publicly said how much money Blackstone stole from the government and charities.
He faces up to 21 years in federal prison when he’s, once he is sentenced in February for wire fraud and fraudulent representation about the receipt of a military decoration for financial gain.