A defense contractor and his wife have been charged and arrested for stealing the identities of two deceased babies and then using the new identities to conspire against the U.S. government, possibly as spies for Russia.
This story traces back to the 1960s, when two babies, Julie Lyn Montague and Bobby Edward Fort, died soon after being born.
Decades later in 1987, Walter Glenn Primrose and Gwynn Darle Morrison, currently both in their 60s and living in Hawaii, decided to steal the babies’ identities and then use the new identities to obtain fraudulent passports and also get Primrose a job in the Coast Guard.
“Prosecutors allege that Primrose used Fort’s identity to fraudulently enlist in the U.S. Coast Guard in 1994, eventually obtaining a secret security clearance and serving for more than two decades before landing a job as a defense contractor after his retirement in 2016,” Fox News reported Thursday.
“While he held that secret clearance with the U.S. Coast Guard, defendant Primrose was required to report any foreign travel. The investigation has revealed that defendant Primrose did not report several trips to Canada while he did report other foreign travel,” according to prosecutors.
“The secret clearance Primrose had provides access to information that is “enormously 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, helps with counterintelligence and serves as the country’s maritime border patrol, said O’Grady,” the Associated Press further notes.
“‘The Coast Guard has a unique perspective on our vulnerabilities,’ he said, including how to infiltrate the country through water ports. Hawaii, a major military center, ‘is a prime target for a lot of espionage and such,’ he said.”
The couple is reportedly scheduled for a bail hearing Thursday, but prosecutors are seeking to hold them indefinitely because of the flight risk they pose.
“Prosecutors applied to have the couple held without bail, using old Polaroid photographs of the couple wearing KGB uniforms as evidence that the duo is a flight risk. They also allege that Primrose, who was an avionics electrical technician in the Coast Guard, is highly skilled at communicating in secret,” Fox News noted.
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The KGB was the Soviet Union’s security/spy agency. As a result of the KGB photos, it’s believed the two may be Russian spies. In fact, a “close associate” of Morrison said to the AP that she’d lived in Romania while it was still part of the Soviet Union.
Morrison’s attorney, Megan Kau, has pushed back on this line of thinking.
“Morrison’s attorney said her client never lived in Romania and that she and Primrose tried the same jacket on as a joke and posed for photos in it. Even if the couple used new identities … they have lived law-abiding lives for three decades,” according to the AP.
Except that using fraudulent identities is illegal, even if the victim is deceased. It’s a form of identity theft known as ghosting.
“It occurs when someone uses the personal information of a dead person, often for monetary gain. A savvy criminal can take over bank accounts, apply for new credit cards, and even file for fraudulent tax refunds. Ghosting often happens shortly after someone dies, before the death is widely known. That’s because it can be months after a person dies before entities like credit reporting agencies, the Social Security Administration, and the IRS receive, share or register death records,” according to LifeLock.
“She wants everyone to know she’s not a spy. This has all been blown way out of proportion. It’s government overreaching,” Kau added.
But why did she and Primrose steal the babies’ identities? This question remains unanswered.
Relatives of the deceased babies are, for their part, furious.
Julie Lyn Montague died three weeks after being given birth in January of 1968.
“I still can’t believe it happened. The odds are like one-in-a-trillion that they found her and used her name. People stoop to do anything nowadays. Let kids rest in peace,” Montague’s father, John, told the AP in regard to Primrose and Morrison.
Montague’s sister, Tonda Ferguson, is equally outraged.
“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 gone by,” according to the AP.
“For all the mothers who are living and have to know this happened to their babies, I can’t even begin to imagine. I’m glad my mama’s with the Lord. This would be so traumatic for her,” she said.
She was reportedly in 8th grade when her sister died.
“She came from a place of love, deep love. For someone to turn around to steal her identity for evil, it’s tough. It’s hurtful. … I hope they rot,” she said of her sister’s identity being stolen by Primrose and Morrison.
Bobby Edward Fort meanwhile died in October of 1967, reportedly in the same hospital as Montague. The two are reportedly buried 14 miles apart.
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