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Shane Ladner arrested, charged for lying about Purple Heart

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CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. -

A man once hailed as a military hero was arrested on Wednesday. Former Holly Springs Police Officer Shane Ladner is accused of tricking people into thinking that he received a Purple Heart for being wounded in battle.

Cherokee County Sheriff's detectives took him into custody shortly after noon, charging him with four counts of theft by deception, one count of false swearing and one count of false statement to a police officer.

Last November, Shane Ladner and his wife, Meg, were injured in a Texas parade honoring military veterans. Four people died and dozens more were injured when a train struck the parade. Meg Ladner lost her left leg due to injuries suffered in the accident.

Shane Ladner's arrest comes after a six-week investigation at the request of District Attorney Shannon Wallace, the Sheriff's Office said.  The investigation revealed that Ladner was not a Purple Heart recipient as he has claimed for several years.

"There simply is absolutely no record of him receiving a Purple Heart ever in the U.S. Army," said Lt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office.

The criminal investigation followed a report by FOX 5 I-Team reporter Randy Travis. Ladner had claimed he had received a Purple Heart after being wounded in Panama. However, military documents obtained by the FOX 5 I-Team proved that Ladner never served in the war in Panama. In fact, he was in high school at the time.

The community raised thousands of dollars for Meg Ladner and Shane, who they believed to be a war hero.

Ladner eventually admitted to his lawyer that he lied about serving in Panama, but he said he did so only to cover how he really got injured: on a top secret Army mission targeting drug lords in Central America. The U.S. Army said that there's nothing in Ladner's files to back up that claim, or indicating that Ladner ever served in combat.

The theft by deception charges are from Shane Ladner receiving a free Purple Heart License plate in 2009, 2010, 2011 and in 2012. The Sheriff's Office says Ladner that when originally applied for the license plate in 2009 he was required to swear that he was a Purple Heart recipient, hence the False Swearing charge.

The false statement charge is from lying to detectives during an interview. The United States Army has no record of the 2004 DD214 that Ladner presented to obtain his Purple Heart Georgia license plate, authorities said.

Ladner was released from custody at Cherokee Adult Detention Center on a $23,100 bond.

Authorities said that there's no evidence that Meg Ladner knew anything about the deception. Still, they said they were puzzled by the fact that Shane and Meg Ladner went to Midland, Texas, last week to honor some of the first responders from that accident in November.

Ladner's attorney John Cook issued a statement late Wednesday stating, in part, "This arrest serves no purpose other than to continue to traumatize Shane and Meg Ladner, both of whom are still recovering from last year's train accident."

Cook also said, "When all of the information finally comes to light, plenty of people will owe Shane an apology."

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