Selling military uniforms to non-servicemen in the United States can help greedy individuals perpetuate stolen valor. Selling those uniforms to foreign buyers, however, risks far more than fraud.
Former military police officer Matthew Thomas Deleo was arrested near Yorktown, VA and charged with stealing authentic military uniforms and selling them to foreign countries. He used his status in the Navy Reserves to gain access to Naval Weapons Station Yorktown-Cheatham Annex and steal uniforms from its warehouses. He and three accomplices then sold the uniforms on Ebay to customers in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan.
“That poses a great threat,” Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Alyssa Nichol said during Deleo’s arraignment. “This is very, very dangerous. It is a threat to national security and it is not an overstatement to say so.”
Witnesses testified that Deleo sold $145,000 of equipment on Ebay to foreign customers. When the FBI arrested him, they found evidence that he was even in the middle of a transaction with a Russian buyer.
Prosecutors argue that in additional to outright stealing from the Navy, Deleo sold items that would help foreign nationals successfully pose as American service members. Considering how often American citizens pull the same stunt, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that someone from Chin or Russia would use the uniforms for nefarious ends.
Deleo’s defense argued that the crime really wasn’t that serious. “We’re not talking about weapons and arms,” she said.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Alex Millar/Released)