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Fake general gets 6 months for helicopter ride

A Raleigh-area auto mechanic was sentenced Tuesday to six months in prison followed by a year of supervised release for pretending to be a U.S. Army general and piloting a helicopter, all to impress a married female employee, according to the Associated Press.

The AP reports the case was so serious that federal terrorism investigators launched a probe.

The incident happened in November 2017 when, according to The News & Observer, Christian Desgroux flew a chartered helicopter to the SAS Institute in Cary wearing a battle dress uniform and identifying himself as an Army lieutenant general. The uniform apparently included combat patches and three stars, though he had never served in the military.

He allegedly told security officers at the business that he was picking up a female employee at the request of President Trump.

He then flew away with the employee for 30 minutes before returning and dropping her off.

Prosecutor Barbara Kocher said this is not the first time Desgroux has used the costume.

The AP reports he had previously used the uniform to convince his now-estranged wife that he was going on fake military deployments and while in attendance at a strip club. He told the court he bought the uniform from a surplus store.

The prosecution also argued Desgroux wore the uniform in an attempt to make himself seem important.

Judge Terrence Boyle said in court that impersonating a military officer is a serious offense.

“You can be a danger to people,” Boyle said. “What made you think you could act like a general?” Boyle asked.

The AP reports Boyle responded meekly, saying it was the fault of a mental issue.

Desgroux was ruled competent to stand trial, and his attorney did not contest the ruling. Federal prison officials found that he had a personality disorder with narcissistic traits and alcoholism. They also said that his actions were not the result of psychosis.

When landing at SAS, the AP reports Desgroux was approached by security officers. Homeland Security Special Agent Tony Bell testified that Desgroux saluted the security officers and that some saluted him back.

All told, it appears Desgroux got off lightly, as he faced a maximum sentence of three years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

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