The revelation of an intricate web of
lies and deception has brought down a gay man who once campaigned for
prominent elected officials, the New York Times reported.
Rick Duncan claimed he was a wounded
Iraq veteran, a 9/11 survivor and a decorated Annapolis graduate, but
it was all a lie.
Strandlof, Duncan's real name, helped
create the Colorado Veterans Alliance with his fake credentials. For
three years he spoke out against the Iraq war and rallied for
veterans rights without being questioned.
Last month, Strandlof, 32, was detained
by the FBI and subsequently arrested by the Denver police on an
outstanding warrant for driving with a suspended license, after
several veterans unraveled his story. He remains in jail and is
expected to be arraigned in Colorado on Tuesday.
Strandlof became a favorite spokesman
of Democratic politicians, appearing in campaign commercials for
Colorado Representative Jared Polis, who is openly gay, and Colorado
Senator Mark Udall.
He said in interviews that he developed
the persona of Rick Duncan after becoming obsessed with the plight of
veterans: “I would ask them, 'What is your story? How do you
In fact, documents reveal Strandlof,
whose resume is loaded with assumed identities and fictional
accolades, more closely resembles a petty criminal than a war hero,
and appears to suffer from mental illness.
“Sometimes I don't know what reality
I am,” he said.
But whether Strandlof's deception broke
any laws remains nebulous. Many taken in continue to defend his
“What's so heartbreaking is he was
doing some good things,” Hal Bidlack, a Democrat who ran
unsuccessfully for Congress from Colorado last year on an antiwar
platform, told the Times. “I just hope he's not undermined
the [veteran] agenda.”