Steven Douglas Burton, 39, of Palm Springs, pleaded guilty in federal court in Riverside on Monday to a misdemeanor charge of wearing unauthorized military service medals, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.
He is due to be sentenced March 1 and could face up to a year in prison.
Burton, who never served in the military, was charged under the U.S. Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a crime to wear unauthorized medals.
Burton is a graduate of Alhambra High School in Martinez. He admitted in a written plea agreement that he wore a U.S. Marine Corps uniform and medals including the Purple Heart, the Navy Cross and the Bronze Star to his 20th high school reunion in Martinez in October 2008.
He said in the agreement that "he wanted to impress his high school classmates" and wore the regalia for the entire event, while knowing that his claims of military service were false.
Burton also admitted to wearing up to 15 fake medals and decorations on two earlier occasions in Southern California.
But it was the Martinez high school reunion that triggered the federal prosecution.
According to an FBI affidavit filed in the case, a classmate who is a genuine Navy commander became suspicious, took a photograph and asked the FBI to look into the case.
Burton said in the plea agreement that he bought the undeserved medals on Web sites and secondhand military stores.
His defense attorney, Michael DeFrank, was not immediately available for comment.