Almost five years ago, I wrote a post about 1st Lieutenant Gregory Allen, a retired United States Marine who ran a fitness center in San Rafael (part of Marin County), the purpose of which was to get young people ready for military boot camp. The City of San Rafael was trying to shut Allen’s gym down, and people who supported his mission sent out a flier seeking money to keep the gym open in spite of new fees that San Rafael was imposing on the gym.
In a twist no one could have expected five years ago, it turns out that there was no 1st Lieutenant Gregory Allen, USMC ret. Instead, there was stolen valor:
For more than a decade, “Lieutenant” Gregory Allen pumped up young military hopefuls at his gym in San Rafael, California. The bulky and bald-headed drill sergeant told war stories from his stint in Vietnam, collected donations, and even posed for photos in a U.S. Marines uniform with a Purple Heart and Bronze star.
The only problem: the Marine Corps says Allen, 67, never served. Now the wannabe jarhead is under investigation by the FBI and Department of Veterans Affairs for allegedly faking his entire military record.
The sham soldier’s fall from grace came last week, after one former Marine’s own detective work prompted the federal probe.
“He’s helping young people who want to join the Marine Corps, but he was doing it through lies and deception,” said James Brown, the watchdog who tipped off authorities.
There’s no doubt that Allen genuinely ran a gym and that the gym did mimic the training young people do at boot camp, especially Marine boot camp. Allen’s whole bio, though, was a lie through and through:
But Allen’s story publicly unraveled after a Bay Area TV reporter exposed his dubious military career Friday. He never served in the Marines or in Vietnam, and never received any medals, ABC 7 discovered through a records request.
Instead, the poser Marine enlisted in the Navy in 1968 but was discharged after eight months because of a knee injury that he sustained playing football prior to enlisting.
Brown teamed up with [local ABC news reporter Dan] Noyes to investigate Allen. It all started when the sergeant major for the local Marines asked Brown if he knew who Allen was and why he was taking so much credit for helping young recruits.
Brown told The Daily Beast it wasn’t hard to poke holes in Allen’s story: pictures of the supposed lieutenant did the work for him. In one online photo, Allen stood next to the flag-draped casket of a fallen Marine, but the medals on Allen’s red Marines blazer were out of order. (This Marine was mentored by Allen, and later committed suicide while in the service, Brown said.)
“He’s got a combat action ribbon above the Purple Heart and Bronze Star,” said Brown, a board member of the Wine Country Marines. “Anyone fresh out of boot camp would have known that was wrong. Veterans look at ribbons as resumes.”
In some photographs, Allen donned a Marine Corps Rifle Marksman badge, while in others he had a Rifle Expert badge. But Brown says a Marine can’t be both once you’re a veteran. (“What you have qualified for when you get out of the service, is what you’ve got for life,” Brown said.)
Allen was also wearing a different number of ribbons in various photos.
The fake Marine couldn’t answer questions on the names of his boot camp, class or drill instructors, Brown said.
Adding to the pile of suspicion was the original name of Allen’s gym: “Fitness Boutique.” Brown says Allen transformed his business into a military-style stomping ground 10 years ago after fitness boot camps gained popularity.
Allen has a felony record to boot. He served a three-year prison sentence for violating a restraining order in 1997. According to the ABC7 report, Allen climbed to his wife’s bedroom window and threatened to cut her throat and shoot her.
Apparently Allen dreamed up the whole scam a decade ago in order to capitalize on the growing trend in fitness circles for “boot camp” style training.
Incidentally, Dan Noyes knows the real deal when he sees it: His son just turned down some serious water polo scholarships to enlist in the Marines. Grayson’s a great kid and I know he’ll do the Marines (and his family) proud.