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Army vet re-enlisted with stolen identity and used it for 33 years

A gavel. (TNS/Released)
September 08, 2022

A U.S. Army veteran was convicted and sentenced this week for committing identity theft to re-enlist in the Army and living under that identity for 33 years.

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On Tuesday, the Department of Justice announced a federal judge in Missouri’s Eastern District sentenced DeLeo Antonio Barner to 100 hours of community service and a jail term he had already served during the course of his trial. Barner had been convicted for using someone else’s identity to get back into the Army.

Barner had served in the Army under his own name but was discharged with no opportunity to reenlist. According to a court filing, Barner was dismissed for missing a readiness alert in 1984. He was not dishonorably discharged but was barred from re-enlisting.

Barner overcame this obstacle to reenlistment in April 1985 by using the identity of a St. Louis, Mo. resident.

Barner completed the Army stint under the stolen identity with an honorable discharge. He had been stationed in Berlin, Germany toward the end of this second Army stint and continued to live there for years afterward.

Continuing to use the stolen identity, Barner went on to make a life for himself in Germany over another 33 years. He worked jobs for security firms and even fathered six children that, according to court filings, are still living under the Barner’s stolen surname.

Barner admitted to his actions in a plea agreement. Barner acknowledged filing for a U.S. passport using the victim’s identity and continuing to use the name for at least three passport renewals.

The victim discovered his identity had been stolen only after he applied for health insurance in June 2018. As he applied for insurance, he was told that his veteran status meant he was already covered through the Department of Veterans Affairs. The victim was confused by this response as he had never served in the military.

The victim told the Veterans Administration police about the false use of his identity. The Veterans Administration Office of Inspector General and eventually the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) became involved in the case.

DSS agents brought Barner into the U.S. Embassy in Berlin in July 2019 where he admitted using the stolen identity to obtain five U.S. passports, in addition to VA benefits.

Barner was indicted in March 2020, extradited from Germany in April 2021, and pleaded guilty to the charges in May. During this time, Barner was held in jail for about a week.

According to Riverfront Times, Barner has struggled to explain his actions to his family.

“I’m still trying to say I’m sorry to my family,” Barner said. “I’ve had to tell my family in Germany the background.”

“I have a 13-year-old girl in Germany that needs me,” Barner told the court during his sentencing on Tuesday, referring to his daughter. He said he also has grandchildren in Germany.

“I want to get this over with so I can get back home,” he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle Bateman told Riverfront News, “I don’t know if he’ll ever be able to make it back there.”

Bateman said it would first be up to U.S. probation authorities to consider whether he can leave the country on supervised release. Even if they approve the leave, Bateman said it would still be up to German authorities to decide whether he would be allowed back in the country.