An Oregon man claiming to be a veteran with a heartbreaking story as been exposed this week as a fraud who was trying to scam people for money. The 34-year-old Michele Bocci has been telling his tragic life story about being a U.S. Marine combat veteran who was left to care for his two children after he lost his wife during child birth. His touching tale was told far and wide, and was even the focus of an August 2016 local news segment which told the story of his bomb-sniffing dog who had been hit and killed by a car. Images of a box holding the dog’s ashes decorated with the U.S. Marine Corps emblem in tandem with hearing of his other tragedies compelled a slew of people to donate to the struggling vet. However, a KGW investigative report reveals that all those people have been conned.
KGW found that more than two dozen people reached out to send money, food, and other types of assistance to the man they thought was in desperate need after serving our country. What was unfortunately unknown at the time was that the U.S. Marine Corps had no record of him.
During an August 2016 story on Portland TV station KOIN 6, Bocci detailed the life and death of his English Springer Spaniel, “Sgt. Ikaika.” who he said was a bomb-sniffing dog that had gotten hit and killed by a car. Bocci showed the box with the dog’s ashes in it that read “Sgt. IKAIKA, USMC” and featured the U.S. Marines Corps emblem.
“I can’t believe he’s in there,” Bocci said. “But once a Marine always a Marine, right?”
Travis Bosner, a man who become friends with Bocci and donated money to help him told KGW he didn’t doubt the man’s story.
“It all seemed believable. Who’s not going to want to help out a veteran who lost his wife during pregnancy?” Bonser said.
“He begged me to set up a GoFundMe account, like borderline harassment and was very aggressive about it,” he continued. “I feel used.”
A woman that dated Bocci, who went by “Michael Bocci,” after meeting him online said that he told a compelling story about his past that included him being a single father, a widower, and a helicopter pilot in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The U.S. Department of Defense and an independent stolen valor advocate are investigating the case which may fall under the Stolen Valor Act of 2013 which makes it a crime to falsify military experience with the intention of gaining benefits.