Robert E. Neener, 65, of Smithville, Tennessee, pleaded guilty on March 12, 2012 to possessing and selling federal agency seals and pretending to be a federal officer or employee, announced Jerry E. Martin, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee. The guilty plea is pursuant to a plea agreement which includes a three-year prison sentence and the payment of restitution to defrauded victims.
As part of the plea agreement, Neener admits that from January 2007 through December 2008, he operated a document vending business from his residence in Smithville, Tennessee, which he advertised via the Internet. In these advertisements, Neener falsely represented that he could provide customers with “authentic” military replacement documents which were “exact reproductions” of those originally issued, and that he had contracts with military branches of the government.
Neener received more than $200,000 from customers who ordered thousands of documents, which included honorable discharges and various military awards. Neener had no authorization from any federal agency to either make or sell these documents. Neener also used the official seals of various federal agencies on most of these documents, including the U.S. Air Force; the Army; the Navy; the Department of Defense; Homeland Security; the Department of Justice; Veterans Affairs (VA); the DEA; the Coast Guard; and the U.S. Marine Corps, without authorization to do so.
Neener also signed or copied signatures of various federal officials on these documents, which made it appear that the various awards or certificates were endorsed and authorized by such officials. On some documents, Neener fabricated the names and official positions of federal officials and on others, he forged the signatures of real persons, identifying them by the federal positions they actually occupied, including a former secretary of the Navy and a former President of the United States.
“Using the Internet to fraudulently sell counterfeit documents is unlawful and triggers serious concerns when those documents falsely purport to be issued by federal agencies, particularly military agencies,” said U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin. “Federal prosecutors in this district will continue to focus attention on anyone who sells phony replacement awards to veterans who have earned such awards, as well as those who sell phony awards to individuals who have not earned them. We will continue to seek significant prison sentences for anyone convicted of such crimes.”
“The Office of Inspector General aggressively investigates unauthorized uses of the official VA seal, and unauthorized creation of documents by anyone pretending to act under the VA’s official authority will not be tolerated,” said Quentin G. Aucoin, special agent in charge of the VA Office of Inspector General.
Neener will be sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell on July 13, 2012.
The case was jointly investigated by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, with assistance from the U.S. Secret Service, the Tennessee Highway Patrol-Criminal Investigation Division, and the FBI. The United States is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Trey Hester.