Man pleads guilty to stolen valor charge
FARMINGTON — A Farmington man has pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of being a felon in possession of firearms and claiming he was a combat veteran who earned medals and ribbons, including a Purple Heart.
Anthony Gambino, 44, admitted during Tuesday's hearing that he was in possession of six firearms and ammunition when he was arrested on May 12 and that he fraudulently claimed to be a recipient of a Purple Heart and the Marine Corps Combat Action Ribbon, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.
Gambino — formerly known as Anthony Lee Martinez — was charged on May 12 in federal court on the firearms charge and with violating the Stolen Valor Act of 2013 by falsely claiming a decoration or medal to obtain money, property or other tangible benefits, according to the criminal complaint.
The investigation into Gambino started after he approached the San Juan County Sheriff's Office to produce a training video with the department's SWAT team in 2015, according to the complaint.
The Daily Times reported that Gambino was the director of a state private security firm in Aztec called the Gambino Security Safety Corp. An investigation into Gambino showed he was producing videos for his company advertising firearms and tactical training, according to the press release.
After the video was produced and uploaded to YouTube, the sheriff's office received a tip about Gambino's previous convictions.
Sheriff Ken Christesen told The Daily Times in May that he agreed to shoot the video with Gambino because he thought he was helping a veteran who was starting a private security business.
The case was referred to the Department of Homeland Security shortly afterward.
During the federal investigation, a DHS agent discovered Gambino had two felony convictions in San Juan County in 1993 for failure to appear and commercial burglary, according to the complaint. He also had a 1997 felony conviction in La Plata County Court in Colorado for menacing with a deadly weapon, according to the complaint.
As part of a sting operation, a special agent contacted Gambino about hiring his company to provide tactical and firearms training to a fictitious Middle Eastern company, according to the complaint.
During a May 12 meeting with special agents, Gambino claimed to be a combat veteran.
As part of the investigation, it was discovered that Gambino fraudulently enlisted in the Marine Corps under his brother's name and was discharged eight months later when his actions were reported to the military, according to the complaint.
Gambino faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. A sentencing hearing has not been scheduled, according to the press release.
Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.