Courts

An East Texas Man Allegedly Used Fake Business Ties and Stolen Valor to Defraud Investors

The investigation into Derek Hamm is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, which is meant to reduce gun and gang violence and deter illegal possession of guns.
The investigation into Derek Hamm is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, which is meant to reduce gun and gang violence and deter illegal possession of guns. Getty Images
It appeared that Derek Robert Hamm was reaping the rewards of his service to the country. Encouraged by Hamm's resume – a veteran of the Army Special Forces and a Purple Heart recipient, among other highly respected accolades – investors forked over funds.

But his background was largely fictitious, the feds say, and 38-year-old Hamm has now been slapped with a 33-count indictment for a slew of charges including money laundering, wire fraud, violations of the Stolen Valor Act, using a military discharge certificate and being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition.

The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 made it illegal to fraudulently wear medals, embellish rank or make false claims of military service to obtain money, employment, property or some other tangible benefit.

Hamm portrayed himself as a former member of the Army Special Forces who served multiple tours of duty in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries. He also claimed to be a recipient of a Purple Heart, a Silver Star, and a Bronze Star for his service.

The truth is, however, that Hamm didn’t receive any of those awards, federal authorities say. Nor was he related to the billionaire Oklahoma oilman Harold Hamm, but that didn’t stop him from lying about his relations to give the impression he had access to financial resources and oil industry insiders.

He used this wealthy war hero persona to make connections with potential investors, according to the indictment. Then, he allegedly defrauded those investors with schemes centered on the oil and gas drilling industry. The feds say he didn’t invest the funds he was given as promised. Instead, he spent the money on things for himself and his family, including nearly half a million dollars on jewelry and vehicles.

On top of it all, he’s a felon and was in possession of firearms and ammunition. Added all up, the charges could send Hamm to federal prison for up to two decades if he’s convicted.

Hamm was arrested in December and charged with property theft between $2,500 and $30,000. He was booked into the Smith County Jail that month without bond. Hamm couldn’t be reached for comment and it’s unclear if he has legal representation.

He is also known as D. Wayne Hamm II, Wayne Hamm, D. Wayne H., DW Hamm, and RD Hamm. A quick Google search for some of these aliases brings back Hamm’s mug shot from the Smith County Sheriff’s Office, along with what appears to be a few of his LinkedIn page.

On one LinkedIn page for a D. Wayne H., he claims to be a Purple Heart, Silver Star and Bronze Star recipient who served in the Army Special Forces. On the page, he claims to be the CEO at a company called CEO to Go, which supposedly specializes in gas and oil drilling. “We currently own and operate 16,000 plus oil wells in seven state with massive success,” the page says.

On another LinkedIn page for a Derek Hamm, he claims to be the owner of Hamm’s Oilfield Goods. The company’s website leads to a blank page. When you call their number, it goes straight to voicemail. The same phone number is provided on the LinkedIn page for D. Wayne H.

Another LinkedIn page for a Wayne Hamm claims to be the president of a company called H&H Railroad Consulting. The Texas Railroad Commission-Enforcement Division is also involved in the investigation into Hamm.

Yet another Google search result leads to a 2018 Twitter post with a picture of Hamm, referring to him as an Army Green Beret. One response to that photo, posted in July 2021, reads: “Derek Hamm was never a Green Beret. He was in the National Guard. He is a compulsive liar, thief, and a poser. He wishes he was all those things. He tells people he was at West Point. He wasn’t. He says he is worth millions. He ain’t. Look at his arrest record.”
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn