We recently received a news tip that a local man is posing as a veteran by using a false story to get discounts at local car dealerships.
The man claims he was in a helicopter crash, honorably discharged, and now has a small source of income.
The problem is, it may not be true.
It all started last year when a man, using the name Geoffery Calabrise, walked into Affordable Auto claiming to be an air force veteran.
“He was very convincing,” said General Manager, Keith Carpenter. “He described an accident. He had been in a helicopter where there were some fatalities and he had some scaring on his arms.”
Calabrise also produced a letter from the Idaho Division of Veterans Services. It showed he gets about $4,200 dollars each month in benefits.
Furthermore, the letter is signed by veteran’s service officer, Ben Kingsley. We’ll come back to this name in a bit.
“He was extremely convincing,” said Carpenter. “He made you feel sorry for him and want to help him.”
So that's what Carpenter did. He gave Calabrise a discount and the keys to a car.
But a week later Calabrise's check bounced, and the bank told Carpenter there was never any money in it.
And remember the service officer Ben Kingsley? We called the Idaho Division of Veterans Services and they have no record of a Ben Kingsley working there.
In addition, they have no record of disability payment for a Geoffery Calabrise, and never wrote a letter on his behalf.
We also checked the VA and searched for Calabrise's military service online - both searches turned up empty.
For general manager Keith Carpenter, that adds up to one thing:
“He's posing as a veteran,” said Carpenter. And he's trying to take credit for something he doesn't have credit for.”
The car was repossessed last year, so why is it still a problem?
The answer can be found in an online application for a car sent to the dealership two months ago.
The name on the application: Geoffery Calabrise.
“I guess he does it so much that he forgot that he had already pulled a scam on us,” said Carpenter. “There should be a special place for this man in the prison system.”
Carpenter has filed a police report. They are investigating.
Calabrise also tried to pass along paper work from the wrong agency. Benefits information only comes from the Office of Veterans Affairs, not Veteran Services.
It's not illegal to falsely claim to be a decorated veteran, but it is a federal crime to say you have a valor award, like a purple heart, with the intention of obtaining money, property, or other tangible benefit.