updated 8/17/2005 9:00:40 AM ET 2005-08-17T13:00:40

A man serving probation in a fraud case has been charged with deserting the Marine Corps 40 years ago to avoid being sent to Vietnam, police said.

Jerry Texiero left his unit in California in 1965 at age 24, police said. He was arrested Tuesday in Pinellas County and charged with desertion.

Texiero, now 64, had been living under an assumed name, Gerome Conti, since at least the mid-1980s, Sgt. Jeff Young said.

As Conti, Texiero had been serving 20 years’ probation after pleading no contest to charges that he defrauded the owners of classic cars he sold in the mid-1990s from a Clearwater lot, officials said.

The Marine Corps contacted his probation officer Tuesday and said Conti’s fingerprints matched those of a deserter who fled Camp Pendleton 40 years ago, Young said.

It was not known how the Marines learned Texiero’s whereabouts. A message left for a spokesman early Wednesday was not immediately returned.

Texiero initially denied the charge when questioned Tuesday, but after being shown a photograph of himself in his 20s, told detectives he deserted to avoid being sent to Vietnam, Young said.

Texiero, who also faces state charges of violating probation and possessing a fraudulent driver’s license, was being held without bond at Pinellas County Jail. A message left early Wednesday for his attorney, Paul Studer, was not immediately returned.

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