POW Network, a website dedicated to American Prisoners of War, is reporting that the recent Honorary Grand Marshall of the 2011 New Rochelle Memorial’s Day Parade misrepresented his rank, his military service and just about everything else as part of a broader pattern of fraud. Talk of the Sound has confirmed that Marrero never served in Vietnam, was not a Prisoner of War, did not escape from a Vietnamese prison and is, in fact, on probation after pleading guilty in 2009 to fraud charges
John Lilyea (SFC, US Army Retired), author of the This Ain’t Hell But You Can See It From Here blog is reporting that the man claiming to be Brig. General Fermijon Marrero is actually Private Ferman Ernesto Marrero.
Messages left for Marrero were not returned.
According to Lilyea, records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from the National Personnel Records Center in St Louis, Missouri show that Marrero served in the Army reserves for two months, from December 23rd, 1975 to February 8, 1976 and on active duty for seven months from February 9, 1976 to November 22, 1976. He is listed as a private at the time of discharge.
“This is a tragedy,” said former New York State Veterans Affair Commissioner Ronald C. Tocci. “People should not pretend to be heroes, people that we honor”.
On the New York State Education web site, Marrero claims in a proposal for a Joint Services Military and Maritime Charter High School to have had a distinguished military record, served in Vietnam, been captured, held as a POW and then escaped.
Brig. General Fermijon Marrero, Vice Chair holds a BS in Forensics and a MBA in Corporate Operations from Rockville University. He is a retired from active Military Intelligence Officer achieving a distinguish military record, including, escape as a prisoner of war. He currently serves as a General in the Army reserves. He is fluent in English, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese, and has extensive knowledge of law administration.
“It’s a sin”, said Peter Parente, parade organizer and President of the New Rochelle United Veterans Memorial and Patriotic Association. “We live in a world where people are putting their lives on the line on a daily basis and to falsely make the sort of claims he has made are disheartening.”
Marrero came to the attention of the parade organizers through his work for the proposed Joint Services Military and Maritime Charter High School. Board members included Edmund Donovan and Dr. Lloyd Burkett. Donovan is the Chair of the Science Department at Salesian High School in New Rochelle, NY and is Executive Officer U.S. Naval Sea Cadets. Dr. Burkett is a Commanding Officer in the US Naval Sea Cadets. The local branch of the Sea Cadets operates out of Salesian High School. Parente, a former Sea Cadet himself, says he met Marrero through Burkett [for more see below].
Not only was he not a Vietnam POW who escaped as he has claimed. Marrero did not serve in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War.
United States involvement in the war ended in 1974 and Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese in April 1975, 8 months before Marrero joined the army. Marrero never left the United States having been stationed at or passed through Fort Dix in New Jersey, Fort Campbell in Kentucky, Fort Benning in Georgia, Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Sam Houston in Texas.
It gets worse.
Marrero was arrested, along with 9 other people, for defrauding the New York City Housing Authority.
ROSE GILL HEARN, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Investigation (DOI), announced today the arrest of eight New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents and two NYCHA Section 8 recipients, for allegedly concealing approximately $1.2 million in household income to fraudulently obtain more than $190,000 in rent subsidies for apartments located throughout the Borough of Manhattan. The rent subsidies are designed to assist low-income individuals to afford housing.
Arrested this week were New York City Housing Authority residents SABRINA CABAN, YUEN YIN KWAN, DENISE LOPEZ, CARMEN LORENZI, JUANA and FERMIJON MARRERO, NICOLAS SANTIAGO and PATRICIA STEWARD, and Section 8 recipients WENDY MONTAS and ISABEL TAMAREZ. Each has been charged with Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class E felony. MONTAS and TAMAREZ were additionally charged with Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a class D felony. If convicted, each faces up to seven years in prison.
Those arrested include an individual accused of concealing employment in which he earned up to approximately $80,000 one year; three City employees who allegedly did not report or underreported their income in order to receive rental subsidies and an individual who allegedly concealed her and her daughter’s employment and received approximately $35,000 in rent subsidies over eight years.
This week’s arrests are part of an ongoing City-wide crackdown by DOI and New York area prosecutors since 1995. Since January 2007, 62 individuals have been arrested for illegally receiving over $1.7 million in government housing benefits. Arrests this year have taken place in the Bronx and Queens and include a federal indictment of 30 individuals charged with defrauding New York’s Section 8 housing subsidy program.
JUANA and FERMIJON MARRERO, 58 and 60 respectively, residents of NYCHA’s Rutgers Houses, allegedly concealed from NYCHA the income JUANA MARRERO earned as a Home Attendant. As a result, between 1997 and 2004 the MARREROs allegedly received approximately $28,300 in rent subsidies to which they were not entitled, according to the criminal complaint. A DOI investigation found that the MARREROs paid rent ranging between $146 and $445 per month when they should have paid $619 per month.
According to court documents Marrero and his wife plead guilty to Petty Larceny and were sentenced to three years probation and to pay restitution after a a criminal complaint was filed on November 14, 2007 in Criminal Court New York County. The Marreros were charged with Grand Larceny In the third degree and Offering a false instrument for filing in the First degree. On March 10, 2009 they pled guilty to Petty Larceny, and signed a confession of judgment In the amount of $21,000.00. They were sentenced to three years probation and to ordered to pay restitution through the department of probation.
On March 4, 2010 the NYCHA’s Applications and Tenancy Administration Department terminated the tenancy of the Marrero’s New York City apartment for defrauding the NYCHA. The Marrero’s filed a petition arguing their removal from their apartment was wrongly decided. On April 29, 2010, Judge Manuel J. Mendez ruled against them, ordering them to vacate their Lower East Side Manhattan apartment.
It remains to be seen what impact Marrero’s conduct will impact his status with the New York State Probation Department.
Marrero was not a covert operative.
Steve Sherman, a researcher for POW Network in Houston, Texas, tells Talk of the Sound that when caught “Phony POWs” will often claim they were on a secret mission and that no records were kept of their capture. Sherman maintains a database of 25,000 special operations personnel from the Vietnam War error.
“There is no one by that name or anything like that name in the database,” said Sherman.
POW Network describes Marrero’s fraud:
Wore one-star and the CIB, Master Jump, Master Aviator, Pathfinder, Air Assault, Ranger, and Special Forces Tabs. 75th Ranger regiment with an airborne tab for his deployment patch, and his current unit was some ROTC unit”.
Claims he was a Vietnam War Era POW of 18 months….
His card reads as follows:
Joint Services Military & Maritime C.H.S.
Brig Gen. Fermiyon Marrero
UPDATED DEC 20, 2011
Talk of the Sound spoke with Dr. Lloyd Burkett, a Commanding Officer in the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets in New York City. Burkett tells Talk of the Sound that he was the one who put together the proposal for the Joint Services Military and Maritime Charter High School. Burkett said he asked a number of people he met through his work with the Sea Cadets to serve on the board including Marrero whom he knew as someone involved with the National Cadet Defense Corps.
NDCC offers similar programs as JROTC. NDCC units differ from JROTC in that they receive little or no financial support from the Armed Forces; uniforms, equipment, other materials and instructor salaries must normally be furnished by the school hosting an NDCC program. Except for the funding aspects, JROTC and NDCC programs are virtually identical, although the cadet corps is not limited by the federal statute that restricts JROTC to offering courses only for students in ninth through 12th grades.
Burkett said that he visited Marrero at a location in East Harlem near the old Benjamin Franklin High School when an NDCC was meeting and observed Marrero interacting with the students in the program.
“That is terrible”, said Burkett, informed of Marrero’s deception. “These kids have been deceived.”
Burkett said that Marrero told him that he he was a Lieutenant Colonel when he discharged from Active Duty and promoted to Colonel in the Army Reserves where he was made a full Colonel. As for being a “Brigadier General”, Burkett said Marrero told him that it was an honorary rank conferred by the Department of Defense related to his work with the National Defense Cadet Corps.
At one point Marrero produced a DD Form 214 for Burkett.
The DD Form 214, officially DD Form 214 “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty”, but generally referred to as a “DD 214”, is a document of the United States Department of Defense, issued upon a military service member’s retirement, separation or discharge from active-duty military.
“His DD 214 said ‘POW Vietnam’ and listed various medals,” said Burkett.
Burkett says that Marrero told him that he had been in the military for 40 years, most of it in the Army Reserves after leaving activity duty, but that the Army would sometimes bring him back to active duty for special missions including one operation for Army Intelligence in Russia.
Marrero has told what now appear to be numerous tall tales including recently to reporter Andrew Meola who wrote about Marrero for the Daily New Rochelle after Marrero was a guest of honor at the New Rochelle’s Veterans Day last month.
Marrero still remembers the exact days of his service. He joined the Army on May 23, 1964 and left on Nov. 22, 1987. Twenty-two days later, he joined the Army Reserve, which he left on May 22, 2011.
Meola bought Marrero’s story, hook, line and sinker.
The native of Spain was a prisoner of war from Dec. 15, 1966 until May 1968. The Vietnamese forced him and his cellmate to work for 16 hours each day in the rice patties while up to his knees in cow dung. The enemy only fed him twice a week, and all he received was an ashtray sized dish of rice filled with maggots. But Marrero said he had to eat the creatures because they were his only source of protein. He slept in a tiger cage that was far too small for him. One day, he and his cellmate ran when the guards turned their heads. He had contracted malaria, which he said he still has to this day, but he ran until he joined up with the 12th Cavalry in Laos.
Marrero is quoted as expressing strong emotions about memorial services on Veterans Day
“Any day that we can celebrate our veterans is the best day,” Marrero is quoted saying adding that “Something has to be done” for today’s veterans.
The article includes a claim, apparently by Marrero, that there are 225,000 homeless veterans on the streets of New York City. A 2008 article in The New York Times puts that figure and closer to 1,200 not 225,000.
According to information posted on the It Aint’ Hell blog “Fermijon Marrero” or “Fermin Marrero” of Brooklyn has numerous civil judgments against him:
Jan. 14, 2010 $21,061 owed to the NYC Housing Authority
Feb. 25, 2008, $5,744 Tax Warrant to the State of New York
Oct. 3, 2006, $7,897 owed on Child Support Tax Warrant
Sept. 30, 2004, $3,756 owed on Tax Warrant
Sept. 3, 2002, $5,358 owed on Child Support Tax Warrant
Oct. 5 1999 Child Support Tax Warrant
Feb. 2, 1999 Child Support Tax Warrant
Nov. 4, 1998, $18,834 on Child Support Tax Warrant
I think if someone looks into his claimed educational claims, you will find that “Rockville University” is not an accredited institution of higher learning, but a Rockville, Maryland city program.
Marrero has a Google+ Profile:
I’m a laid back sort of guy, but I’m also a guy who knows what he wants and goes after it no matter what the obsticles (if Any!) are.
One obstacle he has apparently been unable to overcome is learning how to spell obstacles.
Under education he claims to have attended “Roshville Univ. Univ of Alabama, V.M.I.”
The first apparently referring to “Rockville University”
What is Rockville University?
Rockville University is a free, six-week citizen awareness program sponsored by the Mayor and Council and the City of Rockville. This program strives to teach Rockville residents about the city’s history, its government, and its neighborhoods.
Rockville University is open to any Rockville resident older than 16 who is curious about the dynamics of their community, likes hands-on learning, and enjoys having fun.
On his Facebook page, Marrero claims to have attended Rochville University.
Rochville University is an unaccredited online university offering a “Life Experience Degree, and Certificate Program”. It has been accused of being a diploma mill. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has indicated that Rochville, Belford University, and the agencies from which they claim accreditation, “appear to be operated by the same people”. The Oregon Office of Degree Authorization lists it as “fake”.
The U.S. Army Cadet Corps says they never heard of Marrero.
I uncovered this fraud last evening when the name of our organization – U.S. Army Cadet Corps – came up in the article regarding Mr. Marrero. I immediately contacted the reporter, Chuck and Mary Schantag of the POW Network, and sent an email to Mr. Marrero.
The reporter actually called me this morning to acknowledge the error in fact and to advise me that he was writing a new story, outlining the truth about Mr. Marrero. He was pleasant, professional and clearly taken by the fact that Mr. Marrero had portrayed himself as a GO, especially while attending the New Rochelle Veterans Day events.
For the record, Mr. Marrero has NO affiliation with the U.S. Army Cadet Corps whatsoever.
JOSEPH M. LAND, SR.
COL, GS, USAC
Chief of Staff
Headquarters, U.S. Army Cadet Corps
Another contributor to the This Ain’t Hell Blog says he contacted Dr. Burkett and had the following exchange.
I am not sure if you are aware, but several military blogs have indicated that Mr. Fermijon Marrero, identified in the Joint Services Military and Maritime Charter High School’s prospectus as the vice chair, is a fraud. Mr. Marrero, both in the prospectus, in on line social media, and in newspapers has identified himself as a brigadier general; a Viet Nam combat veteran; a former POW; a member of the Special Forces; and as having been awarded the combat infantryman badge, the Army aviator badge, the jumpmaster badge, the pathfinder badge, the special operations diver badge, and the air assault badge; the Special Forces tab; and an combat affiliation with the 75th Ranger Regiment (Airborne). These claims have been proven to be false.
Freedom of information act requests for Mr. Marrero’s service records indicate that he served less than a year, from December 1975 until November 1976, in the Army and was discharged as a private. His records do not indicate any overseas or combat service, nor do they indicate the award of any badges, tabs, medals, or decorations. Additionally,
his time of service precludes any service in Viet Nam, as the last American troops left in 1973. This document, and additional information refuting all of Mr. Marrero’s claims, can be found at
As the husband of a professional educator, I fully support your attempt to increase the educational opportunities to at risk children, but, as a soldier, combat veteran, and awardee of the combat infantry badge, I find it repulsive that a man claiming such honors could hold the position of vice chair in the school. Additionally, I fear that his participation, particularly given the increased scrutiny that he will now endure, will harm the prospects for funding and support of the school.
In your best interest, and the best interest of the school, I thought that you should know the current developments so you can take whatever action you might feel necessary.
The response in this morning’s in-box:
We wanted to balance the Board with military veterans in addition to educators. He is a member of various military organizations and seemed to have been backed my various military and veteran groups who want to make a change for our at-risk children; however thank you for the information and I will certainly look into it.
This exchange took place prior to December 15th, 2011 at 11:24 am. Talk of the Sound spoke with Dr. Burkett on December 19th at which time Burkett said he was unaware of any questions about the authenticity of Fermijon Marrero.
Another contributor reviewed the Talk of the Sound slideshow from Memorial Day 2011 and noted the following:
[he is] wearing Class B with ribbons and badges. He’s claiming: CIB w/star, DSC, SS, LM, PH, AM, JSCM, AAM, JSAM, POW, NDSM, Vietnam service, Southwest Asia service, Kosovo service, Afghan service, Iraq service, three unknown, UN Medal, Multinational Force Observer, Kuwait Liberation Saudi Arabia, Kuwait Liberation Kuwait, senior aviator, jump master, and air assault.
Marrero is still not responding to phone calls. Apparently, the Daily New Rochelle is claiming to have spoken to Marrero who, they say, now claims he used a different names in the military. Andrew Meola has confirmed that Daily New Rochelle will have a story up today.
Talk of the Sound contacted the FBI to inform them that Dr. Burkett stated that Marrero presented to him a “DD 214” that stated that Marrero was a POW in Vietnam. The FBI was not interested to pursue the matter unless Dr. Burkett were to contact them which Burkett indicated he was not interested to do.
Talk of the Sound has contacted the New York City Department of Probation to obtain whatever public records for Marrero are available and to make sure that the appropriate persons in the department are made aware of what he has been up to since he was sentenced on fraud-related charges.
Next step will be to contact the appropriate IG within DoD. Any help on that is appreciated.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I want to make clear that this story exposing Fermijon Marrero is due in very large part to the efforts of the folks at the This Ain’t Hell But You Can See It From Here blog and the POW Network and their various contributors who have worked together to advance this story with rigorous research and fact-checking. While Talk of the Sound did our own reporting and had support from various Veterans organizations in Westchester County and in New Rochelle, the real credit goes to the men and women of This Ain’t Hell and POW Network.
UPDATE WED DEC 21: Michael Ognibene, Chief of Staff for the New York City Department of Probation tells Talk of the Sound ”
Fermijon Marrero was sentenced to 3 years probation on May 12, 2009 for Petit Larceny (A Misdemeanor). He received an early discharge from probation on April 4, 2011.