There’s nothing new about people pretending to be something or someone they’re not. Yet stories like this one still crop up. Why people engage in this sort of fraud remains a mystery, but one thing is certain: they get caught. And when they do, it is oddly satisfying to watch them flounder. Today’s case is a man who pretended to be a Navy SEAL.
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The US Dept of Justice has announced that William Burley has signed a written confession in which he admits that “between July 17, 2012, and Oct. 8, 2012, he devised a scheme to defraud IAS America and IAS International.”
Defrauding non-profit organizations meant to provide assistance to veterans is a good way to make powerful enemies, and Burley has now been sentenced to three years in a federal prison.
The Chicago Tribune notes that Burley will also have to pay “full restitution of $32,454 to International Aid Services America, or IAS, a nonprofit Christian aid group that provides clean water in Africa.”
Burley must have been convincing. He reportedly convinced the International Aid Services America that he could go to Africa and handle hostage negotiations meant to free three captured aid workers. The kidnapped humanitarians were being held in Somalia.
The agency paid $30,000 for Burley’s services, and flew him to Kenya. Yet his efforts to free the hostages proved futile. So Burley returned to the U.S. and hatched a scheme to rescue the hostages.
His ability to make such claims was based in part on lies Burley told about being a SEAL. He reportedly told people that he’d earned a Presidential Unit Citation, an Afghanistan Campaign Medal, a Silver Lifesavings Medal, and a Global War on Terrorism Medal.
As Burley’s identity unraveled, officials from the charity contacted Don Shipley, an actual Navy SEAL veteran who specializes in exposing imposters who claim to be SEALs.
“Your DD-214 is a crock of shit and your resume is filled with so many holes,” Shipley told Burley during a phone call in 2012.
Burley appears to have a compulsive need to deceive. His antics as a SEAL is just the latest episode. Burley was convicted in 2006 of conspiracy to commit armed robbery in Rhode Island. NBC4 reports that he was also arrested by a San Bernardino sheriff’s deputy that found guns in his Burley’s trunk at a traffic stop. Officials reported that “Burley claimed he was a federal agent, and flashed a Homeland Security badge at the deputy.”
As for the three hostages in Somalia, they were released in June 2014.