Ex-AC mayor pleads guilty to lying to get benefits

(AP) - The former mayor of Atlantic City, who went missing amid questions over his war record, has pleaded guilty to lying to enhance his veterans benefits.

Robert Levy, who was making his first public appearance since stepping down from office Oct. 10, admitted to falsely claiming to have been awarded two military medals and embellishing his military record in order to increase his veterans benefits.

As the judge read the accusations against Levy, the former Atlantic City mayor said, "Yes, your honor," but said nothing else during the hearing at a federal court in southern New Jersey.

Levy admitted that he'd fabricated stories that as a soldier in Vietnam, he'd been left in the jungle for weeks along with South Vietnamese troops he was working with to fend for himself. He also claimed to have made a number of parachute jumps when he did not.

The former mayor admitted that he had used the fabricated stories to then receive more money in disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Levy was elected to oversee the gambling resort in 2005.

But he was embroiled in controversy last year when his claim to have been a member of the elite Green Berets was exposed as a lie by The Press of Atlantic City.

The mayor apologized, but the newspaper's revelation sparked an investigation by federal authorities into whether he made the falsehood to boost his benefits.

With controversy swirling in September of this year, he disappeared, leaving confusion about his whereabouts and about who was running the city government.

It turned out the mayor had been in a rehabilitation center for what his lawyer, Edwin Jacobs, at the time called "a detox situation."

The city has a dubious history of strange City Hall scandals.

Four of Levy's eight predecessors as mayor were busted on corruption charges.

Three members of last year's city council are either in prison or under house arrest, and two current councilmen face criminal charges: One for his alleged role in a blackmail scheme in which a council rival was filmed having sex with a prostitute, and the other for drunk driving after celebrating arrests in the sex-videotape case.

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