Aynor man sentenced to prison for taking veteran benefits, buy guns

An Aynor man, who was a convicted felon, was ordered to be jailed for two years and pay more than $100,000 in restitution to the federal government after veteran officials learned he was receiving benefits and illegally purchasing guns through his parents, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Steven Mickey Bunker, 47, of Aynor was sentenced Tuesday to serve 24 months in jail, three years of supervised release and to pay $108,489.36 in restitution for veterans benefits he received while claiming he was paralyzed and unable to care for himself, according to a news release.

Bunker pleaded guilty in March to theft of government funds and conspiracy to make false statements when purchasing a firearm before U.S. District Judge R. Bryan Harwell in Florence, according to authorities.

Bunker’s stepfather, Thomas Leon Martin, 66, and mother, Betty Jean Martin, 74, both of Aynor also pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to make false statements to federally licensed firearms dealers when purchasing firearms, authorities said. Their sentencing information has not been released.

Federal officials began investigating Bunker after a story in The Sun News was published in which Bunker said he was injured while serving in the military in Iraq. After the story was published, officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs were notified because the newspaper received so much negative feedback indicating that Bunker had made false statements concerning his injuries.

At the time, Bunker was receiving veteran’s disability because he claimed that he was paralyzed and unable to walk, drive, eat or otherwise take care of himself without assistance, according to the release. Bunker’s disability included payment for others to take care of Bunker at his home.

Bunker also received more than $40,000 to purchase a vehicle to be driven by someone without the use of their legs which officials said Bunker traded for a Hummer. The investigation revealed that Bunker was able to walk, drive and take care of himself.

As a result of Bunker’s false claims he had received more than $159,000 in veteran’s benefits, according to the release. During the investigation, officials discovered that Bunker had failed to register as a sex offender after previously being convicted for a lewd act or attempted lewd act upon a minor.

Investigators also learned that Thomas Martin and Betty Martin had helped Bunker purchase 23 firearms by lying on ATF forms when purchasing them, according to the release. Thomas and Betty Martin purchased the firearms by stating on the ATF forms that they were purchasing the firearms for themselves, but the purchases were made for Bunker, who picked out and paid for the firearms.

Bunker was not permitted to purchase firearms because of his prior felony conviction.