Fake prisoner of war now prisoner of the state
December 21, 2010 - 12:25PM
A man who faked a life as an ex-prisoner of war will spend the next six months in jail for claiming almost $700,000 in veterans' pensions.
Arthur Rex Crane, 84, showed no emotion in Brisbane District Court this morning as he was ordered behind bars.
Judge Marshall Irwin said Crane's fraud showed scant regard to the real POWs and to the memory of those killed at the hands of their captors.
Sentencing him, Judge Irwin said he accepted Crane had lived in a fantasy world where he yearned to be considered a hero.
"The motivation for your deception was not greed but need in the sense of achieving and maintaining hero status," he said.
"In perpetrating this fraud ... you have shown little respect for those injured and who died in service of their country."
Crane was the national president of the Ex Prisoners of War Association until he was exposed as a fake in early 2009, following a speech he gave at a POW memorial in Victoria.
Historian Lynette Silver, who had researched the Malaya guerrilla force Crane claimed to have been part of, was in the audience.
She began investigating him and found he had been at school in Adelaide at the time he claimed to have been held captive, brutalised and crucified by enemy soldiers in Malaya.
After being contacted by a Fairfax journalist last year, Crane admitted he had never been a member of the military or was a war veteran. He said he had lied for so long that he had began to believe his own story.
The court heard Crane's bogus story began in the 1960s when he decided he wanted to be one of the POWs he had met at a South Australian country pub.
He moved to Queensland where he met more POWs and began claiming he was a member of a volunteer force which fought behind enemy lines in guerrilla and sabotage operations.
Crane said he was captured by the Japanese in 1942 and survived the Burma-Thai railway and Singaporean punishment compound Outram Road jail.
Crane's lies led to him breaking the law when, in 1988, fellow veterans urged him to apply for a service pension and he did so in order to keep up his facade.
Commonwealth prosecutor Shane Hunter said Crane also applied for and drew a disability pension claiming he had a long list of war injuries.
When the disability pension was initially approved at 50 per cent of the maximum, he launched an appeal in a bid to get more money.
Mr Hunter said Crane supplied the department with a letter from a doctor which said Japanese soldiers had beaten the soles of his feet "to pulps" with bamboo, had his stomach filled with uncooked rice and then with water and had been crucified with four-inch-long nails through his hands.
Crane also claimed his friend was stabbed with a bayonet and died in his arms.
"[Crane] can't get past the past. He has never been able to get out of his mind the torment he felt ... his eyes redden with tears," the doctor wrote.
Mr Hunter said Crane had received $689,491 in pensions. He was not entitled to $464,409 of that amount.
Defence barrister Russell Clutterbuck had asked Judge Irwin to give his client immediate parole, saying Crane was elderly, had no previous convictions and was unlikely to reoffend.
He said his client had repaid $50,000 and has arranged with Centrelink to withhold his aged pension to pay off his debt, though with $413,977 outstanding, Crane would have to live until he was 174 to repay the debt.
Mr Clutterbuck said his client wished to apologise to the community and all POWs.
Today Judge Irwin said he accepted Crane had suffered public shaming and humiliation and since his fraud was exposed, he had been abandoned by his wife and daughter.
"I consider imprisonment the only appropriate sentence in the circumstances," he said.
He sentenced Crane to four years jail and ordered he be released on a good behaviour bond after he serves six months.
Fake Prisoner Of War Arthur Rex Crane Jailed For Fraud
A pretty distasteful and reprehensible fraud on the memory of real veterans, not to mention the 700 grand of taxpayers money rorted...but you have to feel a bit for this pathetic and deluded old man, brought down by his own actions. However, part of me wonders why assorted drug dealers caught with illegal firearms seem to walk away with suspended sentences, not 6 months jail...