Tyler man pleads guilty to using stolen valor to defraud investors of millions

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TYLER, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) — A Tyler man pleaded guilty to federal charges in connection to a scheme where he used stolen valor to defraud investors.

“Whenever people invent achievements and claim valor for things done by others, they tarnish the legacy and service of those men and women who have made real sacrifices in service to this country,” said U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston.  “That is especially true when someone uses the valor of such service to ultimately steal from people. Hamm’s repugnant actions are an insult to true American heroes who received real recognition for their real achievements.”  

Derek Robert Hamm, 38, pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering, violating the Stolen Valor Act, using a fraudulent military discharge certificate, and being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition. The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 makes it illegal to fraudulently wear medals, embellish rank, or falsely claim military service to obtain material benefits.

As part of his plea deal, Hamm agreed to pay at least $2.3 million in restitution to his victims and forfeit jewelry, vehicles, and $1.675 million in cash obtained through the scheme.

According to court papers, Hamm falsely presented himself as a wealthy and successful war hero in order to scam investors. He claimed to be a former member of the Army Special Forces and to have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other countries. He also falsely claimed to have been awarded several medals, including a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Silver Star, and Distinguished Service Cross for his service.

Hamm also lied that he was related to Oklahoma oil billionaire Harold Hamm and had access to vast financial resources and oil industry expertise. Hamm used his garish persona to create a network of friends who introduced him to potential investors who believed his claims and invested in what they thought were legitimate ventures led by a trustworthy and charismatic entrepreneur.

Unfortunately, Hamm was far from trustworthy and his ventures were far from legitimate. Within hours of taking their funds, Hamm spent the investors’ money on himself and his family. He bought expensive jewelry, cars, and took extravagant vacations on private jets all while telling investors that he had put their funds in successful oil industry ventures.

Because of Hamm’s false persona, the investors trusted him even as their returns failed to materialize.

Hamm also pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. He had previously been convicted in Smith County in 2020 for felony theft of property and was forbidden by federal law from owning or possessing both firearms and ammunition. 

Court documents indicate that Hamm possessed dozens of firearms and a cache of ammunition for those firearms — including rifles with high-capacity magazines — at the time of his arrest. 

Hamm’s scheme finally came to an end in January 2022 after he was indicted by a grand jury. If he’s convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

The FBI said that anyone who is or knows an individual victimized by Hamm should contact their offices at 903-594-3503. Some of his aliases include D. Wayne Hamm II, Wayne Hamm, D. Wayne H., DW Hamm, and RD Hamm.