POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested a 27-year-old man for soliciting funds and misrepresenting military service on Wednesday.
The sheriff’s office said it received a tip in December from someone who read a blog about Kyle Barwan impersonating officers. Deputies learned he had been arrested on federal charges for impersonating an officer in the military in both Kentucky and Illinois.
Barwan allegedly befriended a Polk County woman online and lied about his service, while soliciting money from her to “benefit one of his fellow soldiers who was injured in the war,” according to the sheriff’s office.
The victim, Katie Brees, met Barwan on the website “Plenty of Fish,” where he told her he was a Major in the United States Army Special Forces and had just returned from a 5-year deployment in Afghanistan and England.
When the pair met in person, the sheriff’s office said Barwan showed the woman pictures from his cellphone, depicting himself in desert camouflage and a “war video” claiming he had been shot in the face while storming a building.
Brees gave Barwan money for what she believed was a video game tournament benefiting a soldier killed in the war.
Barwan said he needed $80 to buy a new controller. The victim took Barwan to her bank, then Game Stop, where he purchased $60 in gaming credits.
According to an affidavit, Brees invited Barwan over to her family’s home for a Christmas Eve celebration. Barwan allegedly received a phone call from the U.S. Government that night, and told the family he had been promoted to a captain.
“He even told my 83-year-old grandfather who served, that he was all this,” said Brees.
Family members with prior military experience became suspicious and the victim searched Barwan’s name online.
Brees found several articles stating Barwan had been arrested in the past for posing as a military officer.
She confronted Barwan about the stories, but according to the affidavit, he told her the “government had set him up” and they were untrue.
Brees met with deputies on Jan. 6 and provided the bank statement from when she withdrew money to give to Barwan and identified him in a photo line-up.
According to military records, Barwan enlisted in the Army National Guard of Kentucky in 2007 and was discharged in 2008 at the rank of Private 2nd Class for failure to meet medical procurement standards. His character of service is listed as “uncharacterized,” meaning he served less than 180 days.
The records proved Barwan is no longer affiliated with the Army or Army National Guard, is not an officer, was never deployed, and was never injured in the line of duty, the affidavit said.
Barwan was arrested in Plant City on Wednesday and booked into the Hillsborough County Jail on the warrant. He will be transferred to the Polk County Jail.
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