A Pomona man who once boasted of being awarded the Medal of Honor pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to lying about receiving the award, the nation's top military honor.
A subdued Xavier Alvarez, 50, who sits on the board of directors for the Three Valleys Municipal Water District in Claremont, admitted to violating the Stolen Valor Act, a recently enacted federal law that makes it a crime for a person to falsely claim he or she was awarded medals for service in the U.S. armed forces.
Last fall, Alvarez became the first person to be charged for making this type of verbal misrepresentation.
"We have to guard the honor of our nation's military heroes, and this prosecution was a small attempt to do that," said Assistant U.S. Atty. Craig Missakian.
Under the plea agreement accepted by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner on Monday, Alvarez probably will be placed on probation when he returns for sentencing July 21.
Federal prosecutors said Alvarez portrayed himself as a Marine Corps veteran and war hero while campaigning for the water district seat last year. Boasts about his supposed 25-year career in the Marine Corps and his wartime heroics were so well-known that he was dubbed the "Rambo" of the water board.
After his election, while speaking at a meeting between his board and that of a neighboring water district, Alvarez made the specific claim that he had been awarded the Medal of Honor by Congress. Prosecutors have a tape of the meeting.
In court Monday, Alvarez wore slacks, a guayabera-style shirt and black-rimmed glasses as he responded to Klausner's questions. The judge accepted the plea after Alvarez said that no one had pressured him to take the deal, and that he believed it was in his best interest.