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Palm Springs man charged in military-uniform case expected to surrender

Steve Burton, who never served in the military, is accused of wearing medals he did not earn. The charge is a misdemeanor.

November 12, 2009|Baxter Holmes

At Alhambra High School's 20th reunion for the class of 1988, Colleen Solanga knew something wasn't right about Steve Burton's outfit.

To be sure, it was Halloween, but Solanga didn't think this was a costume.

Burton was dressed as a Marine lieutenant colonel, according to court documents, and was wearing a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and a Navy Cross, that service's highest honor.

A Navy commander, Solanga became suspicious and asked Burton if he would pose for a picture with her, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Solanga gave the Oct. 31, 2008, photo to the FBI, which discovered that Burton, a 39-year-old bank employee, had never served in the military.

Burton, of Palm Springs, is expected to surrender to authorities this morning in Riverside on charges of wearing military medals he did not earn. He was charged Friday by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles with the misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of one year in federal prison.

A man who answered the phone at Burton's Palm Springs home Wednesday declined to comment and referred all questions to lawyer Michael DeFrank, who did not respond to several phone calls seeking comment.

FBI Special Agent Akil Davis, who conducted the investigation, said Burton made several Internet postings about being a Marine, including blogging about combat experiences and his service in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Burton also posted a picture of himself standing on a beach in Coronado, wearing a Marine dress uniform with the rank of master gunnery sergeant and three rows of medals, including the Navy Cross.

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baxter.holmes@latimes.com

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