TYLER, Texas (KETK) – A Tyler man pleaded guilty to several charges, including using stolen valor, in federal court, prosecutors announced today.

38-year-old Derek Robert Hamm pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering, violating the Stolen Valor Act, using a fraudulent military discharge certificate and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

As part of his plea agreement, Hamm will pay restitution of at least $2.3 million and will forfeit the proceeds of his criminal conduct, including jewelry, cars and cash in the amount of $1,675,000.

Court documents state that Hamm invented a persona of being a wealthy and successful war hero, making himself out to be a former member of the Army Special Forces who had served several tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries.

Prosecutors said he claimed to have been awarded a Purple Heart, Silver Star, Bronze Star and Distinguished Service Cross for his service, and told people he was related to Harold Hamm, a billionaire oilman in Oklahoma.

According to a release, Hamm created an “extensive network” of friends who introduced him to potential investors who believed Hamm’s claims and invested in what they expected to be worthwhile ventures with a trustworthy entrepreneur.

“In reality, Derek Hamm was nothing of the sort.  Hamm was not a decorated war hero.  He was no oil industry tycoon.  He was not related to Harold Hamm.  He did not spend investors’ funds on the latest oil industry technology or new oil wells. Within hours of receiving investors’ funds, Hamm spent their money on himself and his family, including expensive jewelry, vehicles, and vacations to expensive resorts on private charter planes.  All the while, Hamm represented to investors that he had invested their money in successful oil industry projects. Because of the Hamm war hero persona, the investors trusted Hamm even as their invested funds failed to produce any returns.”

-Excerpt from press release by federal prosecutors

Hamm also pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. He was convicted in Smith County in 2020 for theft of property, which is a state felony. As a felon, Hamm is prohibited by federal law from owning or possessing firearms or ammunition. According to court documents, Hamm was in possession of dozens of firearms, including several rifles with high-capacity magazines, and ammunition for those firearms.

“Whenever people invent achievements and claim valor for things done by others, they tarnish the legacy and service of those men and women who have made real sacrifices in service to this country,” said U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston.  “That is especially true when someone uses the valor of such service to ultimately steal from people.  Hamm’s repugnant actions are an insult to true American heroes who received real recognition for their real achievements.”

Hamm was indicted back in January. He now faces up to 20 years in prison.

Federal prosecutors said that if you or someone you know has been a victim of Hamm, contact the FBI at 903-594-3503.  Derek Robert Hamm is also known as D. Wayne Hamm II, Wayne Hamm, D. Wayne H., DW Hamm, and RD Hamm.

This case was prosecuted as part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods Initiative. Project Safe Neighborhoods is aimed at reducing gun and gang violence; deterring illegal possession of guns, ammunition, and body armor; and improving the safety of residents in the Eastern District of Texas. Participants in the initiative include community members and organizations as well as federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Tyler Field Office, with assistance from the Tyler Police Department, the Smith County Sheriff’s Office, the Phoenix Arizona Police Department, Smith County Adult Probation, the Texas Railroad Commission-Enforcement Division, Department of Veteran’s Affairs-Office of Inspector General, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts-Criminal Investigation Division and the United States Army Special Operations Command. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert Austin Wells and Ryan Locker.