In his effort to receive a full pardon from President Donald Trump, former-Marine and owner of the multi-million dollar apparel business American AF Shawn Wylde has enlisted the help of Tim Parlatore, a former Naval Officer and attorney specializing in military law who successfully defended Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher.
Mr. Wylde is seeking a pardon for two counts of wire fraud, which he faced as a result of “accounting irregularities that would normally be handled administratively” but “were somehow transformed into a federal criminal investigation resulting in a very unfair guilty plea,” Parlatore said, adding that one of the counts Mr. Wylde plead guilty to was “not even an actual crime.”
“Mr. Wylde, a patriot, was very unfairly treated by the American Legal system despite the selfless and dedicated way in which he supported and continues to support our country,” Parlatore said in his letter to President Trump requesting a pardon for Wylde.
Wylde was one of likely hundreds of Marine reservists who suddenly one day received notices from the Marine Corps that they must pay between $45,000 to more than $100,000 to the Corps.
These “debts” came on the heels of the Obama-Biden-era Budget Control Act. Signed into law in August 2011, the BCA shrunk the Pentagon budget by $487 billion over 10 years, with the average servicemember taking the brunt of the financial hit.
Wylde repeatedly challenged the debt on behalf of both himself and a fellow Marine with similar circumstances, eventually being told to fill out a waiver in order to have the debt cleared. But the language on the waiver form required he agree that the debt was valid.
“In large part, they would never have prosecuted him if he would have just signed a piece of paper agreeing that the government did everything the right way,” Parlatore told American Military News. “It’s not fair and it’s not a reason to take somebody who has served honorably as a Marine Corps officer and turn him into a convicted felon.”
After months of going back and forth between the multiple offices and lawmakers, and while suffering from a traumatic brain injury, PTSD, and suicidal ideation, Wylde was charged with two counts of fraud by the United States.
According to the official allegations, as a reservist, Wylde submitted fake apartment rental receipts using a fake email address to be reimbursed by the Marine Corps for rental payments that he never actually paid. He also allegedly received active duty pay and disability pay simultaneously without notifying the VA of his active duty pay.
Wylde told American Military News that he did create the receipts himself, but only because his landlord asked him to make them. When the finance office requested receipt records, he contacted his landlord, who had the attitude of “hand over something if asked. It’s legal … no big deal.” According to Wylde, his landlord said he didn’t have the time to create the receipts while traveling overseas, so he just told Wylde to do it.
Wylde was exhausted from years of battling the debt, as well as physical ailments and mental illnesses, so when his attorney advised him to change his plea to “guilty” on both charges, Wylde blindly followed his advice.
“At this point, I just signed whatever my attorney gave me,” Wylde said. “I gave up. Didn’t even read it. I was defeated. My brain was mush.”
Wylde told American Military News that while he has “a lot of respect for the justice system,” he felt the prosecutor on his case was “hoodwinked by that dirty finance office and overzealous investigators.”
“[The prosecutor] didn’t fully understand military finance rules and why would he? Nobody did at that time. It was a confusing mess. And I felt the investigators and finance office were the enemy and so I was taunting them,” Wylde said.” I had expected to win if they charged me inside the military. So I know it became an ego thing. Once I hurt those guys egos, they weren’t going to drop it, whether I actually committed fraud or not. “
Parlatore echoed Wylde in this regard, noting that the US attorney’s office prosecuted the Marine for something that was purely a military offense and should have been handled within the military system.
“A lot of this had more to do with the changing regulations from one administration to the other with how they count things. This is not the type of situation where there was criminal intent,” Parlatore said. “It was clear that they retaliated against him because he stood up for a female Marine who had been abused and was treated very unfairly. And very disproportionate from other similarly situated individuals.”
Shawn spent four months in prison and one year under house arrest for the conviction. Upon leaving, he immediately got to work, establishing multiple companies, including Semper Silkies, a charitable business where a portion of every sale is donated to one of the company’s five charity partners: Marine Raider Foundation, One More Wave, Team Rubicon, Pararescue Foundation, and Navy SEAL Foundation.
“I don’t even make any money on it personally. I only do it for the fun and for the community of it all,” Wylde said. “It’s more of a passion project for me. I do it for fun and to raise money for charities.”
As a criminal attorney, Parlatore said he sees cases in which people are railroaded by the government every day. In a criminal justice system that he said “is a mess,” there are some cases that “are worthy of forgiveness and re-admittance to full society.”
Eight-tour Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher was one of those cases that Parlatore experienced first hand. Following a difficult war crimes trial that included the military prosecutors installing tracking software in emails to illegally spy on defense lawyers and one reporter, the decorated SEAL was found not guilty of first-degree murder and attempted murder of civilians in Iraq.
Gallagher was convicted of one charge: posing for photos with an ISIS captive’s dead body. None of the other 10 men in the photo were charged. For this crime, the Navy was preparing to demote Gallagher and expel him from the SEALs — until President Trump stepped in and granted clemency to Gallagher.
Like Eddie Gallagher, Shawn Wylde “is a good example of a situation that is worthy of clemency,” Parlatore said.
The attorney continued, “If I were [President Trump] I would take this opportunity to focus almost exclusively on pardons and clemency. Because he has such a unique opportunity right now to make a difference and help a whole lot of deserving people and to correct injustices.”