Lake County Sheriff Frank Rivero Busted By VFW For Lying About Being A Veteran



Lakeport. California(Courtesy A fan sends us the story of Lake County Sheriff’s Frank Rivero who showed up at Vista Casino for the Veterans Day ceremony. When it was asked for all Military Veterans to raise their hands, he did so as youth passed out handmade cards to the veterans, thanking them for their sacrifices and their service to the people of the United States. Only one problem, he is not a Veteran.

VFW Post 2015 Judge Advocate Larry Mick said, “As a Vietnam vet it meant so much to me to get those cards of appreciation. They made those cards for us,” he added. “It means a whole lot — the innocence on their faces and the appreciation for all the veterans.”


Lake County President of the Vietnam Veterans of America Dean Gotham said, “It’s not good for anybody to pretend to be a veteran. You either are or you’re not and to pretend is a tremendous disservice to those who did serve.”

Rivero told a caller on his KPFZ radio program Friday that he is a veteran with the Merchant Marine Reserves in the Coast Guard.


During World War II, there were Merchant Marines with the Navy who obtained veteran status, but according to the Merchant Marine’s Human Resources (HR) Department, that is not the case now. The HR representative said any Merchant Marine with veteran status would have a DD214, which is the official United States military discharge document.


Rivero supplied Lake County Publishing with two documents, which he said were proof of his veteran status.

One is a license issued by the United States Coast Guard that allowed Francisco Jose Rivero from 2005 to 2010 to operate “a steam or motor vessel of not more than 50 gross registered tons upon near coastal waters; also authorized to engage in commercial assistance towing.”


The second was a merchant mariner credential that he obtained in 2010. The certifications appeared to be associated with Rivero’s mortuary business in San Francisco.


Rivero said he does not have a DD214.

Founder of Lake County’s Operation Tango Mike, Ginny Craven said, “I find claiming false veteran status to be disgusting. It is stolen valor.”


Military veteran Brian Martin said, “Normally I don’t like to speak for large groups of people, but I feel comfortable saying that pretending to be a veteran is disgraceful and disgusting.” He added, “I am very proud of my military service and the service of my fellow veterans.”

If he had been a member of the Coast Guard, then yes he would have been a Veteran. But Merchant Marines are not classified as Veterans –

“While the U.S. Government does employ some persons with Merchant Marine credentials to work on various types of government-owned ships, the Merchant Marine itself is not a military service, nor is it an auxiliary to the U.S. Navy during peacetime, and merchant seaman themselves are not military personnel. A “merchant marine” is the commercial fleet of a nation, the ships are owned by various shipping companies. U.S. merchant ships are regulated by the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Transportation, and The Maritime Administration.”


The United States Merchant Marine is the fleet of U.S. civilian-owned merchant vessels, operated by either the government or the private sector, that engage in commerce or transportation of goods and services in and out of the navigable waters of the United States. The Merchant Marine is responsible for transporting cargo and passengers during peace time. In time of war, the Merchant Marine is capable of being an auxiliary to the Navy, and can be called upon to deliver troops and supplies for the military.The Merchant Marine however, does not have a role in combat, although a merchant mariner has a responsibility to protect cargo carried aboard his or her ship.

Merchant mariners move cargo and passengers between nations and within the United States, operate and maintain deep-sea merchant ships, tugboats, towboats, ferries, dredges, excursion vessels, and other waterborne craft on the oceans, the Great Lakes, rivers, canals, harbors, and other waterways.

As of 2006, the United States merchant fleet numbered 465 ships and approximately 100,000 members. Seven hundred ships owned by American interests but registered, or flagged, in other countries are not included in this number.

The federal government maintains fleets of merchant ships via organizations such as Military Sealift Command and the National Defense Reserve Fleet. In 2004, the federal government employed approximately 5% of all American water transportation workers.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, various laws fundamentally changed the course of American merchant shipping. These laws put an end to common practices such as flogging and shanghaiing, and increased shipboard safety and living standards. The United States Merchant Marine is also governed by several international conventions to promote safety and prevent pollution.

While the U.S. Government does employ some persons with Merchant Marine credentials to work on various types of government-owned ships, the Merchant Marine itself is not a military service, nor is it an auxiliary to the U.S. Navy during peacetime, and merchant seaman themselves are not military personnel. A “merchant marine” is the commercial fleet of a nation, the ships are owned by various shipping companies. U.S. merchant ships are regulated by the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Transportation, and The Maritime Administration.



What are your thoughts?
48 comments on “Lake County Sheriff Frank Rivero Busted By VFW For Lying About Being A Veteran
  1. There are a few points I need to make here as a member of the US Merchant Marines. I am a Master Mariner with a license for Any Gross Tonnage. That means that I am licensed to Captain any ship, for travel anywhere in the world.
    To say that he is a Veteran of the USMM and then shows documents showing he holds or held a license for a 50GRT vessel basically covers a small pleasure craft, or something along those lines. Your basic yacht is well over 150GRT.
    Second, the MM has never been a branch of the Coast Guard. We are governed by them for regulatory and licensing purposes only. We are not a branch of the USCG. Merchant Marine Reserves in the Coast Guard is a fake branch. The USN has the Merchant Marine Reserve program, and a very small and very dedicated group of Officers make up that division of the USNR, not the Coast Guard.
    “Merchant Marine’s Human Resources (HR) Department”. What is that exactly? We work for civilean companies. BP, Chevron, TransOcean, Tyco, Maersk. So to say there is a HR department for the MM would be pretty difficult to understand. Who is this?

    • I beg to differ. You hold a license to captain large ships… do NOT hold the security clearance required to captain military ships. Thus, you CANNOT captain any ship in the world. Particularly, the type that would make one a veteran.

      • Seriously? Well let’s see here now. I was originally an Ensign on a LPD before going to Dive School in Panama City, FL. After completion of BDO School, I went EOD school. While there, if you didn’t already have a TS clearance you were not allowed to attend Nukes. Most all of us had a TS before that phase, though.
        Upon graduation, I deployed to Iraq.
        Since leaving the Navy I have sailed on both USNS ships (MSC and MarAd ships). I still hold a Secret Clearance.
        So what part about that would NOT make me a Veteran, or qualified to sail any ship in the world?

        • Clearly you’re confused.

          Your serving in the Merchant Marines and having some cool big ship license has ABOSLUTELY NOTHING to do with your ACTUAL prior service record.

          Nowhere in your original post did you mention having served in the Navy. So please, explain to me how I, or anyone else, were supposed to know this from your initial post.

          Next time try not to get so butthurt over your own lack of clarification.

          • OK, I’m not even sure what to argue with here. Seems like you want to be right, so I’ll let you. Yes, my license is big, and it does allow me to be the Master on any ship flying the US Flag. I guess saying that, and spelling out each little point is my fault entirely. You win.
            I was only bringing it up to say that I know what I am talking about with regard to this ass clown. My prior service doesn’t come into play anywhere here.

    • On the radio show that I heard, Rivero did not state that he was a veteran; he stated that he had signed a contract and was in the Merchant Marine Reserve, and that he could be called up and was required to report to duty if called up. That is all. He did not claim to be a veteran on the radio. The radio caller ridiculously kept asking the same questions repeatedly, over numerous calls, expecting a different answer. The last question the caller asked him was if he had served in WWII, to which Sheriff Rivero stated, “Of course not”.

      • OK, here’s a major point. He holds a 50GRT license. No where did he sign up to Support and Defend anyone with that license.
        The Merchant Marine Reserve is ONLY for US Licensed Officers who have graduated a Maritime College, Kings Point, SUNY, CAL Maritime, ect. So for him to say that he recently got a MMD for a 50GRT vessel and that puts him in the MMR, would be a pretty heft lie.
        The caller would have been looking to get him to lie over numerous times, which it sounds like he did. It sounds like the caller knows more about the MMR and getting a Discharge from the Merchant Marines than Mr. Rivero does. If you are going to lie about being a Veteran, or Merchant Marine, you may want to know a bit about it.
        Although it sounds as though he’s not really good about lying in any capacity regardless.

      • Why would Rivero produce bogus evidence of being a merchant marine officer if his intent wasn’t to deceive? That kind of deceptive thinking is what got him put on the Brady list. He has no credibility.

    • Why yes, yes it does! I got mine to drive my family’s jetboat. So I never had to actually enlist……I was already a veteran when I was 14. Sweet!

  2. I wouldn’t exactly say they are an HR department.
    When you leave a ship, you receive a document as record you were on board the ship called a Discharge. In order to advance your license you have to prove to the USCG that in fact you were on the ship in the capacity you are stating. The Discharge is that proof. (Not A DD214, or anything close to it) It says what ship, where you sailed (foreign or domestic) the size and engine of the ship, and your capacity on board.
    This site looks more like a few people who have devoted time and energy to helping people track down loved ones who sailed.
    Again, it would not have anything to do with someone who had a Merchant Mariner’s Document (MMD) for 50GRT. 50GRT is the license you apply for that is slightly higher than a 6 Pack. Basically worthless.

    • Got ya, thanks for the education, and I am not sure where they( it was an HR Department. But thanks for helping us elaborate on the point that he probably does not have an actual discharge certificate that would grant him Veterans status.

  3. U.S. Merchant Marine Veteran Status
    (service Dec. 7, 1941 – Aug. 15, 1945) U.S. Merchant Marine Veteran Status
    (service Aug. 15, 1945 – Dec. 31, 1946)
    USCG-National Maritime Center (NMC-421)
    100 Forbes Drive
    Martinsburg, WV 25404

    USCG WWII Merchant Mariner
    P.O. Box 530238
    Atlanta, GA 30353-0238

  4. I served six years in the Navy’s Nuclear Power Program and received an honorable discharged after my six years. I never fought in any battles and was never in the line of fire, but I am still a proud vet. Most fake veterans try to take advantage of pretending to be a vet. If I understand this story, all he did was raise his hand at a VFW. Merchant Marines certainly aren’t a fighting group and apparently are civilians. However, maybe it was a mistake on his part and he wasn’t blatantly lying. I am just saying maybe..

    • Not possible. When he was called on it by the local press he provided a Coast Guard Captain’s license and MM credentials as proof of his veteran status. Hardly a mistaken claim on his part. And he only received the MM credentials in 2010.

      • Not to split hairs or argue, but he has a license to drive a 50GRT boat. That’s not a Captain’s license. But I agree with everything else you said.

      • What is it about “near coastal waters” vs “ocean” and “50GT” vs “any tonnage” that you do not understand? His MM credentials weren’t MM credentials. That’s the point. He had a license from the Coast Guard…not the Dept of Transportation. He had a recreational license. My father had one to take his boat salmon fishing at the mouth of the Columbia River.

        • Sharon, I hold a Master’s, Unlimited Gross Tonnage, Oceans license.
          Whether it is a “6-Pack”, or a 50GRT license does not matter. They are ALL issued by the USCG, not the DOT.
          As far as a ‘recreational license’, those are not issued by the USCG, rather states issue these much like a motor vehicle license. And not all states require someone to have these.
          So if he does nor doesn’t hold a valid license is not the issue here, rather that he is calling himself a Veteran. Holding any license does not give anyone Veteran status.
          I hope this helps clarify your confusion on this matter.

    • I was present at the Veteran’s Day Observance with my husband, a Gulf War, Operation Noble Eagle II and III, and OIF/OEF Iraq Purple Heart/Bronze Star Veteran; it was not a VFW meeting or function. At that function, the 4H kids handing out cards were instructed to give them to people in uniform; these were young kids, and really had no idea who was a veteran and who was not. I even helped a few find veterans to hand their cards to. At one point during the observance, those currently serving were also asked to be recognized along with the Veterans. I personally spoke with the VIetnam Veterans of America President quoted in this article. He was not asked about RIvero specifically, nor did he comment about him. He was asked only about stolen valor generally. There are some major credibility issues with this editorial, and a major political motivation for his detractors to discredit him; they recently failed in their recall bid.

      • Liza, it sounds as though you really like this guy. That’s great, but if you listen to the radio show on YouTube you will clearly hear him lie about being the Merchant Marines. He has never been in the Merchant Marines, nor is he a Veteran (as he clearly says he is).
        I’m sorry, but your going down with this guys ship.

  5. I just called the Lake County Sheriff’s office and spoke with a LT. He is aware of the Sheriff’s claim and he has been receiving many phone calls today about this. While he was not able to officially state his disgust at this guy’s audacity, he did mention he is aware of the Sheriff’s short coming. He did not know if Mr. Rivero plans to be issuing an apology, but I told him about this site and his need to consider that option fairly quickly.
    The LT mentioned that he has 3 kids in the military and one who is leaving for boot camp soon. You could hear the disgust in his voice as we talked about this incident and the fact that holding a license to operate a small boat hardly makes you a veteran.

    • Please be careful divulging details like that. Many of his subordinates do not support him but they are concerned about retaliation if they were to publicly criticize him. He is not above that type of behavior at all.

  6. Fair enough. I must plead ignorance on the techical details of those types of qualifications. Thankful for people who are in the know to help clarify. As an aside I worked in the department he now commands (prior to his regime) and am aware of multiple other instances of him lying. I was also just informed that this is not his first rodeo claiming to be a veteran. He also accepted a similar “thank you” from a Girl Scout troop in the community where he lives during a Veteran’s Day wreath ceremony. I’m still waiting on details of that incident to confirm if it was this year or last.

  7. In my narrow view, if ask if you are a veteran you would need a DD214. That is it. Most of the veteran I know personally have a copy of the DD214 stored in the county records. I know nothing about MM, but if he served he would have DD214 by confessing he doesn’t is a confess of guilty period. As a group I feel maybe a letter to the local newspaper is called for. We need to inform the local news what a DD214 mean and what it means if he doesn’t have one.

    • Both local papers know about him, and are aware of his long list of lies. I guess he was involved in a shooting that he lied about as well previously.
      We all know that you have to have a DD214 to be a Vet. And we all know that sailing in the MM does not earn you a DD214. I have spoken with the local newspaper and they are well aware of the history of the Merchant Marines and those who selflessly gave all during WWII.

  8. Just to clarify on this article. One of the quoted persons, Ginny Craven, commented on the article that her comments were not in regard to RIvero himself, but as to stolen valor in general. Additionally, I just got off the telephone with one of the other quoted persons, Dean Gotham, president of the local Vietnam Veterans Chapter 951, who stated that he was not asked about, nor did he comment on Sheriff Rivero. He was asked and commented generally about stolen valor claimants. You should know that Patrick McMahon (above) has been informed of this, and his comment was, “Who cares?” He is the one who referred me to this page, stating I should see what you all thought of it. He is also a former employee of the LCSO, and I must say, if his disregard for ethics is so callous, it is a good thing he is no longer there.

    I also was present at the Veteran’s Day ceremony with my husband, an Iraq and Gulf War Purple Heart Veteran, and we both heard the 4H kids instructed to give cards to those in uniform, as the kids had no idea who many of the veterans actually were. (Not their fault, they are kids…) Those in current service were, at some point, asked to rise and be recognized along with the Veterans.

    As I was on the other side of the room from the Entrance, I did not witness him receiving a card. It is interesting that there are all these isolated quotes, none of which mention Rivero, but no quote from the person who allegedly witnessed this event. I can say that Rivero did not have a card in his hand when we greeted him immediately after the ceremony.

    Thank you for clarifying that there is no HR department for the Merchant Marine. Just one more inconsistency in this editorial. I heard the radio show, and Rivero made NO claim on there that he was a veteran. He did state that he was contracted as a reserve officer in the Merchant Marines on the show. The caller was aggressive and repeatedly called with the same question. Even the show host told the caller that he had already received his answer, but that it appeared it was not the one he liked. At one point, the caller asked him if he had served in WWII, to which Sheriff Rivero answered, “Of course not”. So many inconsistencies lead me to believe that the documents could have been provided for another purpose other than that stated, as there have been numerous times Sheriff Rivero has provided various documents during his campaign and the recall attempt, when his critics have made various claims against him.

    Since I assume that the majority of people posting here, with the exception of a few local names that I recognize (all of whom rank among Rivero’s known critics…) There is a large contingent of people who vehemently supported the old corrupt regime of Sheriff Mitchell in this County, which actively covered up crimes committed by deputies and their friends. It is very interesting that the first comment on this editorial was from Brian Martin, who was also generally quoted in the article, and who was a major supporter of the failed recall attempt of Rivero and has announced his candidacy during that attempt. There is more to this story than meets the eye, and it is, to a large part, more of the small-town politics that have been going on here for decades. I have requested a copy of the radio show. If anyone would care to listen, I would be happy to oblige when I receive it.

    • Jenny.. get over yourself.. RIVERO WAS A LIAR BEFORE HE BECAME SHERIFF AND STILL IS. The original story was broke by the Press Democrat, I do not support Mitchell either. The cold hard facts is that we have the ONLY SHERIFF IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA ON THE BRADY LIST! (the dirty cop list). Im only a Critic of dirty, lying cops, and a Supporter of the honest hard working ones who have to deal with this buffoon impersonating a Sheriff! If people could see these fool with his shirt off.. one might be shocked at the Gang Style Tattoo’s he has…

    • So you agree that he said he is a Reserve Officer in the Merchant Marine. Well there you go, wouldn’t you say that if he was actually a made up officer in this made up ‘Reserve Force’, he would know what he was talking about? There is no such thing as a “Contracted Officer with the Merchant Marine”. Read my previous posts and you can get a good education on the US Merchant Marines.
      Holding a 50GRT (Gross Registered Tons) license is about as good as a driver’s license. You can not drive anything larger than a VERY small tug boat. If I were to get behind the wheel of a 18 wheeler, of which I have no experience at all driving, would you hope that I would be arrested? Exactly my point. He is in no way shape or form a Merchant Marine officer. He is licensed to drive a small boat into San Francisco Bay to dump ashes of people he has cremated at his mortuary. That’s all! Would anyone call him up to help defend America and our freedom? Not likely. Get over yourself, you’re defending a fraud.

      • My son is a deck officer and graduate of a Maritime Academy. You say there are no “contracted merchant marine officers”. What do you mean by contracted? My son has sailed for Global Marine and other on commercial vessels. He had to apply and interview with the company people. He is an excellent deck officer with the unique qualities of navigation ability. Why are Maritime Academys’ giving degrees for Deck Officers if companys won’t hire them as deck officers? The only other degree is in Marine Engineering Technology. Personally, I think Rivero went for the old MM rough n’ tough without realizing the technology involved today is far beyond whatever inkling he believes it is. MM uses a different set of ranks than the military, but to state officers aren’t hired by commercial transportation is odd. You need to realize that once the Iraq War started and the Navy needed to hire commercial vessels to help take equipment over, they ran into not having any Navy personnel qualified to oversee running these vessels. They took steps to change that. There have been many changes made in recent years that many people just aren’t aware of. Did you know that the graduates of the Naval Academy are no longer Lt, but Ensigns?

        • Good morning Sharon. You bring up a lot of points that are way off base, so I will attempt to go over each one individually. You may want to run your post past your son. He’ll help clarify the errors in your post.
          I will assume your son attended the fine California Casual Maritime Academy since you didn’t state which school he attended.
          For the record, I am a 1995 graduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY. Now that we have finished going over our resumes let me answer your points.

          “You say there are no “contracted merchant marine officers”–
          The Sheriff stated that he was a Contracted Officer with the Merchant Marines Reserves in the USCG. That was where my comment about contracted officer in the MMR came from. When we graduate from any Merchant Marine School we are given the opportunity to join the MMR. The MMR has, and always will be a part of the US Navy Reserves. We have never been a part of the Coast Guard. It is separate from, but a run by all licensed maritime officers. All of which are graduates of a 4 year maritime school. Cal, Texas, NY, Maine or Mass and Kings Point.
          The fact that your son works for Global Maritime has nothing to do with my statement. In fact, I think your son is a member of MMP (I’m not positive on this point) and would have hired through the hall with Global. I worked for many years with Tyco and went through AMO to get my job with Tyco doing the exact same work as your son: Undersea cable repair.

          ” You need to realize that once the Iraq War started and the Navy needed to hire commercial vessels to help take equipment over, they ran into not having any Navy personnel qualified to oversee running these vessels. They took steps to change that.”–

          In fact, not to sound too rude here, but you are a little off base. When the Gulf War started we did not have enough US Merchant Marine SHIPS to carry all the supplies to the gulf. Navy personnel do not man these ships, nor do they drive them, nor do they oversee running these vessels. This is the job of the company that was hired to move the supplies to the front. The MMR has been in existence since WWII and they are an arm of the Navy’s Military Sealift Command. MSC contracts ships to move the cargo to the front lines. During the GW, we had to use too many foreign flagged vessels because the USMM was so far in decline. After the war, the USN and MSC built a fleet of ships that would be stationed all over the world to carry these when we needed them. These ships were called LMSRs and were built in Mississippi and San Diego (I was a new Third Mate on the USNS RED CLOUD as a Plank Holder.)

          “There have been many changes made in recent years that many people just aren’t aware of. Did you know that the graduates of the Naval Academy are no longer Lt, but Ensigns?”–

          All due respect ma’am, but you are all over the place with this one. I’m not exactly sure where to go with answering it without sounding disrespectful, which is NOT my intent here.
          Graduates for the US Naval Academy have ALWAYS, since the very first graduating class entered the US Navy as Ensigns, not Lieutenants. O-1, not O-3.

          I hope I answered all of your points without making you mad. As I said before, have your son read your post and he will help clarify what I have just stated. And more to the point, this is about the Sheriff lying to make himself seem as though he is a Vet, which he is not.

  9. The Record Bee put audio of the radio show up on YouTube -search Frank Rivero veteran status and it comes up. Listen to it and he does expressly state that he is a veteran:
    Caller: …I’m curious, is the Sheriff a veteran?
    Rivero: Well I’m part of the Merchant Marine so yes. I’m a Merchant Marine officer.
    The funny part is, of course, that he is not a part of the Merchant Marine, in any meaningful sense.

  10. The sherif is a poser and owes an apology to those who served. I’m a retired US Navy Surface Warfare Officer. I will also say that I have a tremendous amount of respect for the US Merchant Marine. When you’re the old man on a ship things are different. Enemy though a Master on a merchant vessel is not a vet, it’s still a very big deal most never enjoy. Shame on the sherif though, he needs to fess up and make amends.

  11. A little too much “He said…She said” for me. As far as I can tell, he didn’t try to claim a bene fraudulently, which is where I personally draw the line.

    Anyway, in my opinion, time to move along folks. Next batter! 🙂

  12. I notice it’s never the unlimited tonnage guys who pull this crap. We seem to know better and aren’t ashamed of what we do.

    “Your serving in the Merchant Marines and having some cool big ship license has ABOSLUTELY NOTHING to do with your ACTUAL prior service record.”

    Buzz… you sound like a prick.

  13. I will weigh in as a Coast Guard Vet.

    First – there is NO Such Thing as an Officer in the Merchant Marine Reserve of the Coast Guard. The USCG does not have a MM Reserve.

    2nd – the License he supposedly as is a permit top operate a commercial vessel for hire – 6 paying passengers or les. It would demonstrate knowledge of Navigation Rules, Vessel Safety, Navigation Procedure, and a certain number of hours attainted prior to being eligible for that certificate.

    My kitten is more of a Veteran than he is

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