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Return of the imposter?



He has had a rich life. A convicted forger turned Iraq war veteran turned veterans activist, Richard Strandlof is now believed to have made another turn: as Israeli-born lawyer Rick Gold.

Earlier this week, the Denver Post reported that members of that city's Jewish community believe they've caught the former Colorado Springs-based man at his old tricks.

Starting in 2007, Strandlof began to build his reputation, the reputation of Rick Duncan, the wounded Iraq war veteran who was inside the Pentagon during the attacks of Sept. 11. He quickly became a media darling, interviewed by outlets throughout the state, including this paper, the Post, the Gazette and others. He was regularly seen at political events with former El Paso County Democratic Party Chairman Hal Bidlack, who was running for Congress against U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn at the time.

Strandlof was finally caught by a volunteer at the nonprofit that he had set up, the Colorado Veterans Alliance. He didn't deny the charges, and instead attributed his behavior to mental illness. He was threatened with jail time under the Stolen Valor Act, before a district judge dropped the charges last summer.

Speaking to the Indy after Strandlof was outed, Bidlack — who had served in the Air Force and was actually inside the Pentagon on 9/11 — said he was "profoundly disappointed" by Strandlof's deception: "He was also a friend," Bidlack said.

At this point, no one in Denver has publicly posited that Strandlof might have done anything illegal. But there is disbelief and disappointment among those who took "Rick Gold" into their community and lives, only to find out months later that he might be a homeless con man feigning Jewish ancestry.

Rebecca Saltzman tells the Post: "It goes beyond friendship in that the Jewish community is kind of like any community of minorities, a tight-knit group. He just got his foot in the door and was one of us. It still hasn't completely sunk in yet."

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