HONOLULU (AP) — A U.S. defense contractor and his wife who lived for decades as two deceased Texan children have been charged with identity theft and conspiracy against the government, federal court filings show. unsealed in Honolulu.
Walter Glenn Primrose and Gwynn Darle Morrison, both in their 60s, who are believed to have lived for decades as Bobby Edward Fort and Julie Lyn Montague respectively, were arrested in Kapolei on the island of Oahu on Friday.
Prosecutors are seeking to hold the couple without bail, which could indicate the case is about more than fraudulently obtaining driver’s licenses, passports and Department of Defense credentials.
These documents helped Primrose obtain a secret security clearance from the US Coast Guard and as a defense contractor and old photos show the couple wearing uniforms from the KGB, Russia’s former spy agency, has said Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Muehleck in court documents. Faded Polaroids of everyone in uniform were included in the motion to hold them up.
A “close associate” said Morrison lived in Romania despite it being a Soviet bloc country, Muehleck said.
Morrison’s lawyer said his client had never lived in Romania and that she and Primrose tried on the same jacket as a joke and posed for pictures. Even though the couple used new identities, attorney Megan Kau told The Associated Press, they lived law-abiding lives for three decades.
“She wants everyone to know she’s not a spy,” Kau said. “All of this has been grossly disproportionate. It is the government that goes too far. »
Prosecutors said there was a high risk the couple would flee if released. They also suggested that Primrose, who was an avionics electrical technician in the Coast Guard, was highly qualified to communicate covertly if released.
The couple are also believed to have other aliases, Muehleck said.
A lawyer for Primrose declined to comment. A bail hearing was scheduled for Thursday in U.S. District Court.
The secret clearance Primrose had provides access to information “extremely valuable to our enemies,” said Kevin O’Grady, a Honolulu defense attorney not involved in the case.
The Coast Guard works closely with the Army and Navy, assists in counterintelligence and serves as the nation’s maritime border patrol, said O’Grady, an Army reservist and Lt. Col. Judge Advocate.
“The Coast Guard has a unique perspective on our vulnerabilities,” he said, including how to infiltrate the country through waterports. Hawaii, a major military center, “is a prime target for a lot of espionage and the like,” he said.
For a family whose deceased child’s name was stolen, Wednesday’s news came as a shock.
John Montague, who lost his daughter Julie in 1968 at the age of 3 weeks, was stunned to learn that someone had been living under his name for so long.
“I still can’t believe this happened,” Montague, 91, told AP. “Odds are one in a trillion that they found her and used her name. People stoop to do anything these days. Let the kids rest in peace.
Primrose and Morrison were born in 1955 and attended high school together in Port Lavaca, Texas, then went to Stephen F. Austin University, court records show. They married in 1980.
Nothing in the court documents indicates why the couple in 1987 assumed the identities of deceased children who would have been more than a decade younger than them. But an affidavit filed by Special Agent Dennis Thomas of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service noted that the couple lost their home in Nacogdoches, Texas to a foreclosure that year.
They remarried under their assumed names in 1988, Thomas said.
Court records provide no information about what happened from the time they took on their new identities until 1994, when Primrose, then about 39, enlisted in the Coast Guard as a than Fort, who would have been around 27 years old.
If there was an obvious age difference between what Primrose looked like and the birth certificate he presented, “it’s a miserable failure,” O’Grady said.
“It’s something if they can figure it out now, they should have caught it then,” he said.
Montague said “somebody’s not doing their job”.
Primrose and Morrison applied for and received multiple passports under their assumed names, according to court records. But in 1999, Primrose also applied for and obtained a passport in his legal name while also holding a passport in Fort’s name.
Primrose was in service until 2016, when he began working for an unnamed defense contractor at U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point.
“While holding this secret clearance with the US Coast Guard, defendant Primrose was required to report any overseas travel,” prosecutors wrote. “The investigation revealed that the defendant Primrose failed to report multiple trips to Canada while he did report other trips abroad.”
The couple lived in a suburb of Honolulu in a modest two-bedroom bungalow under palm trees. They owned a house nearby which they rented to military personnel, said Mai Ly Schara, who lived next door.
She knew them as Bob and Lynn, with Morrison apparently being Julie Lyn Montague’s middle name.
Primrose did yard work for Schara for $50 a month, she said. Morrison collected, fed and sterilized cats. She also owned several rabbits and had a room dedicated to pets.
“They kept to themselves, but they were friendly,” Schara said. “They were just a little corny.”
Schara wasn’t sure what Primrose did for a living, but thought it had to do with the military. Morrison once worked as a parking attendant at a Waikiki hotel, but tutored neighborhood kids.
The FBI created a scene in the quiet neighborhood as they searched the house and took photos.
“It was just shocking, like, oh my God,” Schara said. “It was pretty crazy.”
The State Department declined to comment on the arrests.
The couple are charged with conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, false statement in a passport application and aggravated impersonation.
Fort, who lived less than three months, died in October 1967 in the same hospital where Julie Montague died about three months later in January 1968. They are buried 14 miles apart.
When Tonda Ferguson learned from her father that Morrison had used her late sister’s birth certificate to create an alias, she thought of her mother, who died in 2003, and how many years had passed.
“For all the mothers who live and have to know this has happened to their babies, I can’t even begin to imagine,” Ferguson said. “I’m glad my mother is with the Lord. It would be so traumatic for her.
Ferguson was in eighth grade when his sister died. She was never able to see her little sister or hold her in her arms. She was buried in Burnet, Texas, the small town where they lived at the time outside of Austin.
“She came from a place of love, deep love,” Ferguson said. “For someone who turns around to steal their identity for evil, it’s tough. It hurts. … I hope they rot.
Melley reported from Los Angeles. Caleb Jones in Kapolei, Hawaii, and Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.
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