Texas Man Lied About Being a War Hero to Scam $1.7M From Investors, Feds Say

A Texas man was indicted for allegedly claiming he was a 10-year Army veteran in order to defraud investors out of $1.7 million, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said Tuesday.

Derek Robert Hamm, 38, of Tyler, had a 33-count felony indictment returned against him for numerous charges, including fraud, money laundering, and possessing a firearm as a felon. He was also charged with violating the Stolen Valor Act, which makes it illegal to "fraudulently wear medals, embellish rank, or make false claims of military service" for personal benefit.

If convicted, Hamm could spend up to 20 years behind bars.

The Military Times did note that Hamm enlisted in the Indiana National Guard in 2001, and was deployed to Iraq as a battalion member. However, Hamm was not the distinguished war hero that he claimed to be, according to the DOJ.

Hamm was, in reality, an oil businessman who reportedly saw multiple companies shut down for tax reasons, according to documents obtained by the Times. During his time in the oil business, Hamm allegedly pretended to be a war hero of great valor in order to defraud potential investors, the DOJ stated.

Hamm lied to a number of oil executives and also claimed to be the nephew of billionaire Oklahoma oil baron Harold Hamm in order to build his credibility within the industry. The two are, in reality, not related.

U.S. Army
A Texas man was indicted Tuesday for allegedly attempting to pass off as an Army war hero, despite only ever serving in the National Guard. He also stated that he was the recipient of a number of medals which, in reality, he never obtained. Here, a U.S. Army uniform is seen during a ceremony in 2018. Noam Galai/Getty

His lofty claims allowed him to secure connections in the industry, which helped him reach investors and rack up $1.7 million worth of funding for his oil companies.

Upon receiving these funds from investors in his oil companies, Hamm allegedly would not put the money back into his company. Rather, he would use the funds to invest in "lavish personal gifts, including nearly $500,000 on jewelry and vehicles for himself and his family," the DOJ said.

As part of his ruse, Hamm continually claimed that he was a graduate of West Point and served with the Army Special Forces in Middle Eastern countries for a decade. He additionally claimed to be a "master Airborne soldier with 258 combat jumps," according to court documents.

As a result of his "actions," Hamm told investors that he had been given a number of awards. This includes the Purple Heart, awarded to those injured in the line of duty, as well as the Distinguished Service Cross—the second-highest decoration in the U.S. military, behind only the Medal of Honor.

However, in reality, Hamm had reportedly only received "non-valor"-related awards from his time in the Indiana National Guard.

This stint was not Hamm's first stint as a national guardsman, though. He had reportedly been discharged from the Oklahoma National Guard in 2007.

Hamm's charge of possessing a firearm as a felon was due to a prior arrest in 2020 for theft of property. As a result, he was prohibited from owning a gun, yet law enforcement reportedly found one in his possession.

The DOJ noted that Hamm also had a prior conviction from 2005 for a domestic violence charge against a family member.

Newsweek reached out to the U.S. Army for comment.