PORTLAND, Ore. — A military impostor will serve six months in jail after deceiving the community, church groups and even police.
Michele Bocci pleaded guilty to criminal impersonation and theft.
“This runs pretty high on the disgust scale,” said Washington County Circuit Court Judge Theodore Sims during the sentencing hearing in Hillsboro.
The misdemeanor charges stem from an August 2, 2016 incident. Bocci, who claimed to be a decorated U.S. Marine, said his bomb sniffing dog had been hit and killed by a car.
After hearing his heartbreaking story, a local funeral home offered to help. Springer and Sons funeral home in Aloha provided free cremation for the dog, along with a specially designed urn that included a military emblem and custom engraving. An invoice shows the value as $310.
Government records show, Michele Bocci never served in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“This sends a powerful message that you don't mess with the military and falsely present yourself to deceive people," said Kerry Rasco of Springer and Sons funeral home.
During the hearing, Washington County deputy district attorney Ethan McWilliams detailed Bocci’s criminal history record, including fraud cases dating back more than a decade to when Bocci lived in Germany.
“Mr. Bocci didn't arrive in the United States as a combat veteran. He arrived as a proven and dedicated impostor and fraud with decades of experience," said McWilliams.
According to U.S. Department of Defense records, Michele Bocci was convicted of fraud in Germany in 2001. In 2002, he was convicted of computer fraud by German authorities. Later that year, Bocci served 20 days detention for fraud and embezzlement. In 2003, he was charged with seven counts of fraud, two counts of theft and title misuse in Germany. Police arrested him again in 2011. He was charged with five counts of fraud, falsifying documents and abuse of doctors’ titles. Records show he was charged with fraud in 2013.
By the time Bocci left Germany for the United States in June 2016, the prosecutor said Bocci had an active warrant for his arrest for fraud and theft.
In January 2017, a KGW investigation found community groups, churches, police agencies and various individuals in Oregon had been duped by Bocci. They 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.
"It's not just that Mr. Bocci had a weak moment or a memory lapse or a departure or this was somehow a mistake,” explained McWilliams. “This was calculated."
Over the past nine months, KGW has received nearly a dozen complaints from citizens who encountered Bocci. They say Bocci told elaborate tales in hopes of collecting money, obtaining the use of a car or other benefits.
Bocci declined to comment as he entered court Friday. His defense lawyer explained that Bocci has been seeking mental health treatment.
In addition to his six month jail sentence, Judge Sims ordered Bocci to undergo treatment, serve five years of probation, and write a letter of apology to his victims.
Background: Law catches up with military impostor
Published Sept. 15. 2017