<h1>Tinicum military hero or major hoax?</h1>
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<div class=“byline”>By: Freda R. Savana</div>
<div class=“affiliation”>Burlington County Times</div>
<div id=“pbTextBody”>As suspicions grow about Andrew Diabo’s
service in the Marines, his family’s unfinished home on Dark Hollow Road
is again set to be sold at sheriff’s sale.
He told everyone he knew of the horrors he’d witnessed at war. From
Somalia to Bosnia to Iraq and Afghanistan, Andrew Diabo said he served
his country as a U.S. Marine.
But Andrew Diabo, who claimed he was unable to finish his home on
Dark Hollow Road in Tinicum because of his continuous military service,
is not to be found in the ranks of the Marine Corps.
“I don’t see him in our records,” said Capt. Brian Block, who works
in the Marines’ public affairs department in Virginia.
A further verification request from the manpower and reserve services
of the Marines, which lists anyone who has served in the corps,
produced the same result. “There is no one by that name who has ever
served in the Marines,” said Maj. Shawn Haney, with the public affairs
Attempts to reach Diabo and his wife, Evelynn, were unsuccessful.
The couple’s landlord, Kathie Brown, who rented an apartment to them
above her antiques store on River Road in Upper Black Eddy, said
Thursday they were gone and she hasn’t seen them and their 5-year-old
son since the beginning of March. Evelynn’s parents have been cleaning
out the apartment, where the Diabos left their possessions.
Brown said officials from the Department of Defense visited her about
a month ago, asking questions about Andrew Diabo.
“They wanted to know what he looked like. They asked if I ever saw
him in his uniform,” said Brown, who had not, although she said she saw
his “dress uniform” and medals in the apartment. The authorities asked
her not to tell the Diabos they had been to the store.
“I’m not making any judgments. I don’t know what to think,” said
Brown. “He seemed to have a coherent story and he was out of the country
a reasonable amount of time.”
Diabo, who worked as a computer specialist, also appeared to have
been injured and had difficulty walking, said Brown. “Something was
wrong. He slept during the day and was up at night. He never went out.”
And there was often trouble getting the rent, although Brown said
they had come to “an amicable agreement.”
Brown said Diabo told her he graduated from West Point, with a
special request to become a Marine helicopter pilot.
West Point spokesman Frank DeMaro said no one by that name is a
graduate of the military academy.
After The Intelligencer reported last September that neighbors had
safety concerns about the state of the Pipersville home that has stood
unfinished for nearly 10 years, an outpouring of support followed for
the man the community believed had served his country.
At the time, Diabo, who said he was injured in a bomb blast,
recounted stories of his time in the war.
“I lost a lot of friends, and I got to go home. Despite my injuries, I
still get to come home. I’m still alive. I feel guilty, because to come
home without them - it’s just very strange.
“But, I would do it all over again. I would go back if I could,” he
In recent months, however, questions have been raised by those who
tried to help him.
The lawyer who was working with the Diabos to help keep their
property out of foreclosure said he has not had contact with his client
for some time and phone numbers he had for him are disconnected.
Attorney Frank Caiola, who donated his services to the couple because of
Diabo’s supposed military service, said they did make several payments
as they worked through the cumbersome maze of the federal mortgage
modification process but were ultimately unable to make a costly balloon
“Regardless of whether it’s a hoax, they did make payments,” said
Caiola, adding, “It’s a complete puzzle. I thought and fully believed he
had served in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
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Friends such as Martin Focazio worked to organize contractors,
architects and others to help the family complete its stately,
3,000-square-foot house that sits across the road from Tinicum
“I know a lot of ex-military who were very willing to help,”
explained Focazio, who said he and his wife became friends with Andrew,
Evelynn and their young son. “But Andrew kept saying he was too
embarrassed to come to any meetings.”
The last time the men saw each other was when the couples went out to
dinner in late February. There, said Focazio, “we had a lot of fun +
Andrew was glad-handing and telling war stories with a man from another
But by mid-March, much had changed for Focazio.
As he e-mailed friends about Diabos’ plight, trying to get him
assistance, he received an e-mail from a Marine reservist who claimed
Diabo was a fraud.
“I didn’t believe him so I started checking myself + that’s when I
knew we’d been had,” said Focazio.
Thousands of miles away, another chapter emerged about the Diabos’
David Peterson, an attorney in Wailuku, Hawaii, has stayed tuned to
the Diabos since 2006, when his client rented a home to them on Maui
that ended with an eviction, the loss of some $20,000 in unpaid rent and
the Diabos abandoning their belongings.
Occasionally searching the Web for any news of the Diabos, he found
The Intelligencer stories and contacted the newspaper to share what he
learned in his quest to find Andrew and Evelynn.
He said the couple lived in the house there until May 2007, when
Evelynn said Andrew was being called back to Iraq. She said she would be
staying behind in Hawaii. By June or July, however, she said she was
going to visit family and would be back. Two or three payments followed,
then nothing, said Peterson. Eventually, Evelynn wrote to the landlord,
saying the couple was in Denmark but would be returning to Maui. A bank
account was set up and a couple of rent payments made, then those ended
“The next thing my client heard was that Andrew was in a German
hospital,” said Peterson in an e-mail. By June 2008, he was pursing an
eviction for the landlord.
Peterson provided The Intelligencer with copies of several letters
exchanged between Evelynn Diabo and the landlord, where Evelynn said
Andrew was in a coma and when strong enough was going to be transferred
to Maui to recover. Evelynn also told the landlord that her husband
received his second Purple Heart before falling into the coma.
The landlord, at first very sympathetic, became increasingly
frustrated at the lack of payment and eventually sought the help of
In his own search, the attorney said he checked with the Department
of Defense Manpower Data Center, the same one later checked by The
Intelligencer. Andrew Diabo was not in the database.
At one point, Peterson said Evelynn, whom he could only reach by
e-mail, told him Andrew was not listed in normal information searches
because he served in a “special forces” branch. Peterson said he pleaded
with her to provide any means of confirming that, because the law might
be able to protect them from eviction. No contact was ever provided, he
Marine personnel services said the Marine Corps has no such elite
Peterson said the Diabos never mentioned they were building a home in
Pennsylvania. In Tinicum, Focazio said, Andrew never mentioned living
in Hawaii, although Brown said she knew the family was there.
The Tinicum property is set to be sold May 14 at a Bucks County
Freda R. Savana can be reached at 215-345-3061 or <a ]fsavana@phillyBurbs.com[/url]. </div>
<!—<div class=“date”>April 25, 2010 8:38 AM</div>—>
<div class=“date”>April 25, 2010 08:38 AM</div>