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Political news followers may recall a story from ’09 about a Colorado mental patient named Rick Strandlof who pretended to be a decorated Veteran named Rick Duncan, rose to the top in the Veteran’s advocacy community, and made political allies with many of the state’s top legislators and candidates, on both sides of the aisle. Later, after the national news picked up the story and he was interviewed by Anderson Cooper, Rick Strandlof was tried for impersonating military personnel under the “Stolen Valor Act”. The case was dismissed by a federal judge who ruled that the Stolen Valor Act violates free speech protections.
As the story unfolded, it became clear Rick Strandlof had a long history of posing as people he was not, networking with leaders in each of his fake identities. In his latest incarnation, Rick Strandlof has become Oil and Gas Attorney Rick Gold, an observant and active member of Denver’s young Jewish professionals community.
I remember when I met Rick Duncan (Strandlof) at a political event in 2009. I talked to him for a good while about his endorsement of Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman in ’08, when he (as Duncan) was the Chair of the Colorado Veterans Alliance, a group he said represented 32,000 veteran members. We were at a meet-and-greet for a Democratic candidate for Congress in ’09, and I recognized him from across the room. Our conversation went something like this:
“Hey, I recognize you!” I said.
“You do?” he says, almost choking on his mimosa.
“Yeah, you’re the guy in the photos posing with Congressman Mike Coffman last year. You’re a head of a Veteran’s group in Colorado, aren’t you? I’ve been trying to reach you through your website to find out more about veteran’s concerns.”
“Yes, yes, I am. I am Rick Duncan”, he lies. Nice to meet you in person” .
I continue, “I can’t believe you’re here. I thought you were a Republican?” I pry.
“I’m committed to veteran’s issues — veteran’s rights. I think this candidate is right on the issues, so I am going to back him .”
Intrigued, I could not leave it alone.
“Really! How has Mike Coffman disappointed you –disappointed veterans? I want to hear all about it! I’d love to see him out of office, and I think we need veterans to stand up and tell their story about how the GOP is using them for votes, then not delivering, especially after they’ve been injured. It’s so obvious!”
Rick knew his stuff. He told me details about votes, and was disgusted that the troops were not getting the necessary supplies they needed to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a wounded veteran, he said, he had opinions about the Veteran’s Administration, as well.
Strandlof appeared charming, knowledgeable, and articulate. Still, there was something almost-too-good-to-be-true about him. I called the campaign manager for the candidate who held the meet-and-greet, and asked, “How well do you know Rick Duncan?”
“He is one of my best friends”, he said. Later, I learned this was not true, but that the young campaign worker (whose identity I will never reveal) was trying to impress the volunteers with his grass-top’s connections.
Not long after, I got a call from another campaign volunteer warning me not to ever talk to Rick Duncan again, and to make sure I never link his name with any candidate. “Delete whatever photos you may have of him with any candidates, legislators, or campaign staff, okay? This guy is a fake, and is being investigated by the FBI.”
Immediately, I went back to Coffman’s website. I couldn’t understand how someone could pretend to be the President of a group with 32,000 veterans, and my Congressman, a proud veteran, did not know he was a fake. Apparently, Coffman’s office learned Strandlof’s true identity before we did. Photos and mentions of Rick Duncan (Strandlof) had already been deleted. Any references to the Colorado Veteran’s Alliance endorsement were also deleted. Hours later, former CO GOP leader Dick Wadhams’ posse was all over the news saying Strandlof was associated with Democrats like Congressman Jared Polis and Senator Mark Udall.
The next time I saw Rick Duncan/Strandlof/Gold, he was being interviewed by Anderson Cooper on CNN. Despite the ocean of legal trouble he was in, he eagerly answered questions, admitting who he really was. Clearly, the man appears seriously mentally ill.
As the story unfolded, many newspapers and television programs told the rest of Strandlof’s bizaree story. In 1997, he was Richard Glenn Pierson, charged with forgery and bad-check charges and sent to prison for five years in Montana. Later, he started a foundation in Reno, Nevada to advocate for open-wheel racing and children’s charities. His Linked-In profile as Rick Strandlof still lists him as the owner of the Reno Tahoe Grand Prix. Strandlof then spent nine months in Washoe County jail for stealing a car. Numerous other stories about Strandlof also emerged, each more colorful and interesting than the last. Apparently, he had hoodwinked hundreds of people, over many years.
Fast forward to today. An article appearing in Denver’s main daily rag is titled “Man unmasked as fake military hero in Springs reappears as “lawyer” in the Highlands“. The article tells of Strandlof posing as a young Jewish lawyer from the trendy Highlands neighborhood, who was able to hide the fact that he is bipolar, schizophrenic, homeless, and none of the things he pretended to be.
I immediately looked up Rick Gold on Linked-In. Sure enough, there is Strandlof, posing with one of Colorado’s members of Congress. Listed on the resume portion of his Linked In account, it says this:
Knowledgeable in 1031 exchanges, Section 29 credits, tax partnership agreements, unrelated business taxable income issues, mineral titles, leases, leasing, seismic agreements, exploration agreements, drilling contracts (IADC and custom), joint operating agreements (AAPL and AIPN), farmouts and farmins, gas balancing, oil and gas sales contracts, natural gas transportation agreements, gas processing agreements, dedication contracts, crude oil processing and exchange agreements, LNG contracts, pooling and unitization, and indemnification and anti-indemnification statutes.
Various types of badassery.
According to today’s newspaper story, Senator Udall’s office also confirms the identity of the man in the photo as Rick Standlof.
On social networking site Plancast, Strandlof is listed as Rick Gold with a bi-line of “G-d, Country, Baseball. Not necessarily in that order”. It also indicates he is planning to attend a future event with Tom Tancredo.
I urge the Obama administration and all legislators and candidates to google this man’s story and images and beware. He is a master chameleon, one who researches and absorbs details of professional positions he pretends to hold. He is able to convince people of his falsely important standing, and gains access at high-level political events. Until now, he has been non-violent, but his interest in politics, the military, and community leaders shows he cannot be trusted.
(Author’s note: Sadly for the Denver Post, I cannot link to their articles due to their history of legally harrassing Colorado Pols. A number of them contain great investigative research into Strandlof’s long career of lies. My sources for this blog diary are from my own on-line investigation.)