PORTLAND, Ore.— Newly released U.S. Department of Defense records help illustrate an alleged trail of deceit involving an Oregon military impostor who has been the subject of multiple KGW investigations.
Government records show that Michele Bocci has never served in the U.S. military. Bocci is currently serving six months in the Washington County jail for criminal impersonation and theft.
The records also include photos of fake military dog tags, business cards marked United States Marine Corps and an orange jacket displaying the U.S. Coast Guard insignia and “Maj. Bocci.” Major is not a rank in the Coast Guard.
Starting in January 2017, KGW found dozens of individuals, community groups and churches duped by Bocci. They often provided money, food or other types of assistance after hearing his tragic story. Bocci told people he was combat veteran, left to care for his two young children after his wife died. The story was not true, prosecutors say.
Bocci also claimed to be a decorated U.S. Marine whose bomb-sniffing dog had been hit and killed by a car.
The defense department records show Bocci was under FBI investigation starting in December 2016. The FBI then referred the case to the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, or DCIS, a branch of the defense department.
KGW obtained the reports through a public records request.
Federal investigators quickly confirmed Bocci had never served in any branch of the armed forces, according to the reports.
On Jan. 9, 2017, KGW first publicly exposed Bocci as a military imposter in a news report. The following day, federal investigators interviewed Bocci at a Department of Homeland Security Office in Portland.
“Bocci was advised multiple times during the interview that it was a crime to provide false statements to federal agents,” wrote Jeffrey Ledbetter, a special agent with U.S. Homeland Security. “Immediately following the interview, much of the information Bocci provided was determined to be false.”
The United States Attorney’s Office in Oregon declined to prosecute Bocci. The narrowly worded Stolen Valor Act is difficult to prove. Instead, the Washington County District Attorney’s Office pursued the case resulting in conviction.
Bocci is due for scheduled for release from jail on Feb. 11, 2018, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
Bocci’s legal troubles may not be over. The Portland Police Bureau has submitted a new, unrelated case to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office for review. Investigators suggest that Bocci could face additional charges.
Although Bocci is serving jail time, additional victims continue to speak out.
“I saw a very cold, heartless man that would be willing to do anything for money,” said Kelly Silva of Vancouver. A military veteran herself, Silva said she, too, was fooled by Bocci.
“He told me he was a doctor,” said Silva, who met Bocci while swimming with her family along the Columbia River last summer. He eventually moved in with her.
Silva said Bocci had access to her private records and finances.
“Anybody that you let into your life with false pretenses can cause a lot of damage,” said Silva.
Published Nov. 2, 2017