NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ For more than a year, Jesus Garcia claimed he was an Army Ranger wounded while serving four tours of duty in Afghanistan, police said Monday.

The 20-year-old Connecticut man had an Army Ranger tattoo on his shoulder, claimed a facial blemish was from shrapnel and posed in a military uniform, according to police. They said he even convinced his mother, girlfriend and friends he was in the military and planned to speak at a local Memorial Day ceremony before he was caught.

Garcia, who never served in the Army, was arrested last week in Greenwich on charges of larceny, fraudulent representation of Armed Force uniform, fraudulent use of military insignia and interfering with an officer after he gave a false name and date of birth.

“I would say he’s a scoundrel,” said Lt. Kraig Gray, a police spokesman. “He is perpetrating a life-altering fraud. He’s living this lie.”

Garcia claimed he was having adjustment issues returning to civilian life, Gray said.

Garcia apologized to veterans during an interview Monday with The Associated Press.

“I know what I did was dumb,” Garcia said. “It’s something I will never do again.”

Garcia said he dreamed of being in the military since he was a kid, but failed the test to get into the Army. He had dropped out of high school.

He said he obtained the uniform online and wore it on the train to New York several times, getting free rides as a result.

He said he posed in the uniform on his Facebook page, admitted he received about $900 from two people and told one person he was hit three times in the back.

“I did it just to actually feel like I was somebody in life,” Garcia said.

Garcia said his girlfriend is pregnant and cried when he admitted he was not in the military. His mother also sobbed during an interview Monday with AP.

“It’s just incredible,” said his mother, Lidia Evangelista. “I just can’t believe it. I really don’t understand. He never had problems in his life.”

Garcia lived in Greenwich and New York and told friends and relatives his absences from one residence was military related, police said.

Capt. James Heavey, a veteran, spoke to Garcia before he talked on Memorial Day and quickly concluded he was a fraud after noticing his uniform was askew, police said.

Garcia said police asked him for his military identification and he didn’t have one.

He claimed he was going to admit to the fraud during his Memorial Day talk, but never got the chance.

He was released on $2,500 bond and is scheduled to return Friday to Stamford Superior Court.

Garcia said he was thinking of joining the military in Guatemala where he also has citizenship.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


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