Tyler man pleads guilty to using stolen courage to defraud investors for millions

TYLER, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) — A Tyler man pleaded guilty to federal charges in connection with a scheme in which he used stolen courage to defraud investors.

“When people invent achievements and claim courage for things done by others, they tarnish the legacy and service of those men and women who have made real sacrifices in the service of this country,” said U.S. Attorney Briton Featherston. “That’s especially true when someone uses the courage of such a service to end up stealing from people. Hamm’s horrific actions are an insult to real American heroes who were given real credit for their real achievements.”

Derek Robert Hamm, 38, pleaded guilty to wire transfer fraud, money laundering, violating the Stolen Valor Act, using a fraudulent military discharge certificate and being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition. The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 makes it illegal to fraudulently wear medals, embellish rank, or falsely claim military service to gain material benefits.

As part of his plea deal, Hamm agreed to pay at least $2.3 million in restitution to his victims and forfeit jewelry, vehicles and $1,675 million in cash obtained through the settlement.

According to court documents, Hamm falsely presented himself as a wealthy and successful war hero to scam investors. He claimed to be a former member of the Army’s Special Forces and to have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other places. He also falsely claimed to have been awarded several medals, including a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Silver Star, and Distinguished Service Cross for his service.

Hamm also lied that he was related to Oklahoma oil billionaire Harold Hamm and had access to enormous financial resources and expertise in the oil industry. Hamm used his ostentatious personality to create a network of friends who introduced him to potential investors who believed his claims and invested in what they believed to be legitimate ventures led by a trustworthy and charismatic entrepreneur.

Unfortunately, Hamm was far from trustworthy and his ventures were far from legitimate. Within hours of taking their money, Hamm spent the investors’ money on himself and his family. He bought expensive jewelry, cars and took extravagant vacations on private jets, telling investors that he had invested their money in successful ventures in the oil industry.

Because of Hamm’s false personality, the investors trusted him even when their return failed to materialize.

Hamm also pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. He was previously convicted in Smith County in 2020 of property theft and was prohibited from possessing or possessing both firearms and ammunition under federal law.

Court documents show that at the time of his arrest, Hamm owned dozens of firearms and a stockpile of ammunition for those firearms, including rifles with large-capacity magazines.

In January 2022, Hamm’s plan finally came to an end after he was indicted by a grand jury. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

The FBI said anyone who is or knows anyone who has been a victim of Hamm should contact their office at 903-594-3503. Some of his aliases include D. Wayne Hamm II, Wayne Hamm, D. Wayne H., DW Hamm, and RD Hamm.

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