ANC Website Top BANNER 3
 

Posted on Fri, Apr. 23, 2004
Man arrested for wearing military attire released on $10,000 bond

 Wearing a full-dress Marine uniform festooned with two dozen medals is proper attire for a military funeral - unless you never served in the military.

A New Jersey bus driver who hasn't spent a day in the armed services but loved to dress up as a Marine hero - even at a funeral Mass for an Iraq war vet - was released after a Newark court hearing Friday on $10,000 bond.

Walter Carlson, 58, of Summit, New Jersey, was arrested Wednesday at services for Marine Lieutenant John Wroblewski, 25, of Jefferson Township, New Jersey.

Wroblewski, who died after an April 7 shootout, was buried Friday at Arlington National Cemetery.

At the services for him in New Jersey, Carlson attended wearing a spiffy Marine captain's uniform. By coincidence, FBI agent Thomas Cottone, the bureau's specialist in illegal wearing of military awards, happened to be at the Washington Township church.

Carlson caught Cottone's eye right away because of the number and importance of the medals and ribbons, including the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism against an enemy, two Silver Stars for gallantry in action, two Bronze Stars for heroism and three purple hearts for being wounded in action.

When a band played the Marine Corps Hymn, Cottone was convinced.

"Anyone who's been a Marine more than two seconds would have snapped to attention, and he didn't," he said.

Afterward, he asked Carlson where he'd earned the medals, but the stories came apart. Carlson confessed he was a wanna-be who borrowed ID to buy the Marine clothes and medals at a military store.

"People who wear these medals falsely do a disservice to those who earned them," Cottone said. "If you want to be in the military, visit your nearest recruiter."



24 April 2004
Marine impostor must give up gear

Impersonating a Marine has brought Walter K. Carlson much unwanted attention, loss of his military gear and a July trial that could result in fines and jail time.

After leaving a preliminary hearing on Friday afternoon at U.S. District Court for illegally wearing military awards at the funeral of Marine Lieutenant John Thomas "J.T." Wroblewski on Wednesday, Carlson avoided about a half-dozen cameramen and reporters waiting to talk to him on the steps of the courthouse. Carlson, 58, of Summit, quickly walked to the parking lot across the street and hopped into a Cadillac Escalade.

Judge Ronald J. Hedges set Carlson's trial date for July 7 at 10:30 a.m. at the federal courthouse in Newark. Carlson, who surrendered to authorities by attending the hearing, requested a public defender for the trial. Hedges imposed a $10,000 unsecured bond and the confiscation of all Carlson's military paraphernalia by Tuesday before releasing him on his own recognizance.

Assistant Public Defender Peter Carter, who represented Carlson, said his client did not mean to offend Wroblewski's family at the funeral, held at Our Lady of the Mountain Church in Washington Township.

"Mr. Carlson is very sorry for what he did," Carter told a group of reporters after the hearing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney R. Joseph Gribko said that if convicted, Carlson could face up to six months in jail and a maximum $500 fine.

FBI agent Thomas A. Cottone, who was at the Jefferson Marine's funeral, said Carlson was at the rite wearing a Marine Corps dress uniform with 24 medals. The uniform bore insignias indicating the rank of captain.

Cottone said he specializes in apprehending people who illegally wear military awards, particularly Medals of Honor. He is a parishioner at Our Lady of the Mountain Church, and said Carlson first claimed to have earned the medals but later admitted that he had never served in the military.

"I think he is getting the picture of the severity of his actions," said Cottone, before the Friday hearing.

Carlson did not speak to the media at the courthouse, but during a phone interview on Thursday he told the Daily Record that he attended the funeral to feel respected, and also to honor Wroblewski. He admitted to dressing up as a Marine almost a dozen other times prior to the funeral.

Carlson said he had attended Veterans Day and Memorial Day events in Morris County.

"I did this for myself, nobody else. I always wanted to be in the Marines. I knew one day I would get caught," Carlson said, from his home during the phone interview on Thursday night. "Growing up I was picked on."

Carlson said he never had a psychiatric evaluation, but he takes medication for diabetes. He has lived in Summit almost all his life and works in Dover.

Carlson said a friend who is a veteran gave him access to a military store where he could purchase Marine uniforms and medals.

Common reasons why people decide to impersonate military officers are to impress others, financial gain or because they always wanted to be in the military, Cottone explained.

"People who wear these medals falsely do a great disservice to those who earned them. Many Marines have died to serve our country and rightly earn their awards posthumously," Cottone said during a previous meeting.

Cottone was made an honorary Marine by the Commandant of the Corps for his work. Cottone also is the FBI's national case agent for investigations into illegal wearing of military awards, he said.

Wroblewski, 25, who grew up in Jefferson, is Morris County's first fatality in the Iraq war. He was buried on Friday at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.



23 April 2004
 

WK Carlson Marine Imposter PHOTO
Walter K. Carlson, center, attends the funeral for Marine Lieutenant
John Thomas "J.T." Wroblewski. Directly in front of Carlson are
Wroblewski's parents, Shawn and John Walter Wroblewski

Phony Marine crashes funeral

Walter K. Carlson has never served in the military, but that didn't stop him from wearing a Marine dress uniform decorated with two dozen medals at a funeral for a Morris County Marine officer on Wednesday.

That is the charge filed against the Summit man by the FBI.

Carlson, 58, was summoned to appear today at 2:30 p.m. at U.S. District Court in Newark before Judge Ronald J. Hedges on charges of illegally wearing military awards at the funeral of Marine Lieutenant John Thomas "J.T." Wroblewski at Our Lady of the Mountain Church in Washington Township. Wroblewski, 25, who grew up in Jefferson, is Morris County's first fatality in the Iraq war. He will be buried today at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

FBI agent Thomas A. Cottone, who was at the funeral, said that Carlson was at the funeral wearing a Marine Corps dress uniform with 24 medals. The uniform bore insignias indicating rank of captain.

"When I saw him wearing those medals, I knew right away what he was doing," said Cottone, who specializes in apprehending people who illegally wear military awards, particularly Congressional Medals of Honor.

Cottone, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Mountain Church, said Carlson first claimed to have earned the medals but later admitted that he had never served in the military.

"I know about 90 percent of all highly decorated officers in the state, and I didn't recognize him," Cottone said.

According to Carlson, who spoke with the Daily Record by phone Thursday, he attended the funeral to personally feel respected and also to honor Wroblewski. He admitted to dressing up as a Marine on almost a dozen other times prior to the funeral. Carlson said he had attended Veterans Day and Memorial Day events in Morris County.

"I did this for myself, nobody else. I always wanted to be in the Marines. I knew one day I would get caught," Carlson said, from his home during the phone interview. "Growing up I was picked on."

Carlson said he never had a psychiatric evaluation, but takes medication for his diabetes. He has lived in Summit almost all his life and works in Dover.

Carlson said a friend who is a veteran gave him access to a military store where he could purchase Marine uniforms and medals.

Agent Cottone explained that common reasons why people decide to impersonate military officers is to impress others, financial gain or because they always wanted to be in the military.

"People who wear these medals falsely do a great disservice to those who earned them. Many Marines have died to serve our country and rightly earn their awards posthumously," Cottone said.

Cottone was made an honorary Marine by the Commandant of the Corps for his work. Cottone is also the FBI's national case agent for investigations into illegal wearing of military awards, he said.


24 April 2004

Military impostor says he is sorry

An FBI agent spotted Walter K. Carlson, dressed in full regalia, at a funeral for a Marine.

A man accused of illegally wearing military decorations while attending a funeral for a Marine killed in Iraq apologized for his actions, his lawyer said yesterday.

"My client is very sorry for drawing attention, any attention, to himself rather than this Marine," assistant federal public defender Peter Carter said. "To the extent that anyone in the armed forces has been offended, he deeply apologizes."

Carter spoke outside court after the accused, Walter K. Carlson, was allowed to remain free by U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald J. Hedges, who set bond at $10,000 during a four-minute hearing.

Hedges ordered Carlson, 58, of Summit, N.J., to surrender all military materials by Tuesday. He set trial for July 7.

Carlson spoke only to answer the magistrate that he understood his rights. He declined to speak to reporters.

He was charged Thursday with illegally wearing military awards, punishable by up to six months in prison. The charge was lodged after he was spotted at the funeral Wednesday of Second Lieutenant John Thomas Wroblewski, 25, of Jefferson Township, N.J.

The funeral, at Our Lady of the Mountain Church in Washington Township, Morris County, was attended by FBI Special Agent Thomas A. Cottone, a parish member.

Cottone, who was made an honorary Marine for his work in identifying military impostors, said he spoke to Carlson after noticing that Carlson was wearing a Marine dress uniform with decorations indicating he had received about 24 medals, including the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars, and three Purple Hearts.

Carlson admitted that he never served in the military, according to Cottone's complaint.

"Hopefully, this will stop other people from doing this," Cottone said after yesterday's hearing. "It's not a victimless crime. The awards he was wearing, people died earning them."

Besides the uniform and decorations, Carlson also had "leatherneck" vanity license plates issued by New Jersey, Cottone said. The tags, bearing a slang term for a Marine, are to be surrendered.

Wroblewski was buried yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. He died April 7, one day after he was wounded during a shootout with insurgents in the Al Anbar province. Wroblewski, who was assigned to Iraq shortly after he was married in July, was one of at least 12 Americans killed in the battle.

A Rutgers University graduate, Wroblewski joined the Marine Corps on Dec. 13, 2002. He was based at Camp Pendleton in California.

Posted: 26 April 2004