A Canadian group that investigates and exposes people falsely claiming to be veterans alleges a man who took part in Remembrance Day events at three schools in Red Deer, Alta., is an impostor who never served in the U.S. marines.
Stolen Valour Canada says Peter Toth of Red Deer took part in events at St. Francis of Assisi Middle School, G.W. Smith Elementary and Aspen Heights Elementary in November dressed in a U.S. military uniform, complete with several medals and patches.
“There’s no record of Mr. Toth ever having served in the United States Marine Corps,” Ian White with Stolen Valour Canada told CBC News.
A complaint has been lodged with the RCMP.
Rank, uniform, deployment dates questioned
White says his group received an anonymous tip about Toth, and that photos and verbal accounts suggest there is a lot wrong with Toth’s story.
“The rank is never worn on the arm, and then various patches and things that he was wearing just weren’t consistent with the narrative of being a marine, like a sniper patch, just not something the marines issue to their members,” said White.
“There was a lot of things with Mr. Toth that put up red flags for us.”
‘A quick glance at his photo tells you he’s lying.’
– John Lilyea of U.S.-based blog called This Ain’t Hell about Peter Toth
White says accounts he received of stories Toth delivered to children at the schools also raised alarm bells, including dates and places he claims to have served as a marine.
For example, White says he was told Toth claimed to have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, while also saying he retired in 1985 — well before those conflicts.
In a brief Facebook conversation with Toth, White says Toth told him he had served in Kandahar province in Afghanistan and “Hazzbollah.” Hezzbollah is a Shia Islamist political, military and social organization in Lebanon.
White says he was also sent a discharge document by Toth that the group says is a fake, including spelling errors and a signature that doesn’t match the date on the document.
A U.S.-based blog called This Ain’t Hell helped Stolen Valour Canada in investigating Toth’s military claims. This Ain’t Hell also works to expose people pretending to be veterans and wearing military uniforms having never served.
“There is no such thing as a sniper patch, he was also wearing a POW medal, and the Defence Department here says he was never a POW in Vietnam,” said veteran Jonn Lilyea, who runs the blog.
“A quick glance at his photo tells you he’s lying.”
Lilyea, who says his group has “busted” around 1,000 impostors over the past 10 years, says Toth’s name doesn’t show up on the U.S. Department of Defence’s online manpower records for the dates he claims he served.
The story has some similarities to the case of Franck Gervais, a Quebec man who claimed to be a decorated soldier during Remembrance Day ceremonies at the National War Memorial in 2014.
The Department of National Defence said Gervais, who was interviewed during a broadcast while wearing an army dress uniform with sergeant’s chevrons and the cap badge of the Royal Canadian Regiment, was not a member of the Canadian Forces.
CBC News tried to make contact with Toth through the same Facebook account that Stolen Valour Canada used to contact him — one of two in his name — but so far hasn’t received a reply.
The Red Deer Catholic School Board told CBC News it relies on the Royal Canadian Legion to provide veterans for events and expects the legion to make the necessary checks.
Legion says it lacks resources to check for fakes
But the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 35 in Red Deer says it doesn’t have the resources to make those checks.
“When they pass us a piece of information and we look at it, we hope they are being truthful,” said Tammy Wheeler. “Verifying a U.S. military document would be very difficult for our people to do.”
Wheeler acknowledged Stolen Valour Canada’s investigation questioning Toth’s authenticity and confirmed the incident is now with Red Deer RCMP.
Red Deer RCMP told CBC News that a complaint was made to them on Nov. 27, but couldn’t confirm whether an investigation was underway.