A Victorian magistrate says a former RSL official who masqueraded as a decorated war veteran for more than four decades committed the lowest act he has ever seen.
Lance Smith's level of deception was so great that he became President of the Glenroy RSL branch before his web of lies was finally discovered, Broadmeadows Magistrates' Court heard today.
The court was told Mr Smith joined the RSL in 1972, and claimed to be a Vietnam war veteran - even marching on Anzac Day and Remembrance Day.
His lawyer Brent Casey told the court: "What started as a lie snowballed to the point he lived more than 40 years in a fantasy life."
During that time, Mr Smith received a range of free or discounted benefits and was given up to $2000 a year and a petrol card for his executive roles at Glenroy RSL.
Deputy chief magistrate Robert Kumar said he had never seen anything as low in his 28 years as a magistrate.
World War II veteran Bill Lancaster was in court to support Mr Smith, telling the hearing the 69-year-old had worked tirelessly for the RSL.
"He's been around the club for a lot of years, been on the committee and he's been president. He's done thousands of hours of work," Mr Lancaster told 7News reporter Emily Angwin
"In my opinion, he's a good bloke. I do not condone what he has done, but I can understand it. People couldn't get in the armed forces so they just imagined they were in it.
"If ever I met him in a pub, I'd have a drink with him. I don't care what he's done, or what anyone thinks of him. He did a lot of good for the RSL."
The magistrate accepted Mr Lancaster's statement of support and Mr Smith avoided a jail sentence.
Instead, he was fined $2500 and received a six month jail term, fully suspended.
The new Glenroy RSL President Ken White says the club now has to change its screening process.
He said most club members do not hold a grudge.