HONOLULU (TBEN) — Bobby Edward Fort was 27 when he joined the Coast Guard in 1994 and retired 22 years later with a secret security clearance that allowed him to land a job in Honolulu as a defense contractor.
But in reality, Bobby Fort was long dead. He was less than 3 months old when he suffocated and died in a Texas hospital in 1967.
The Bobby Fort, who enlisted in the Coast Guard, had stolen the dead baby’s identity 35 years ago. A fake birth certificate helped him obtain five passports, driver’s licenses and credentials from the Ministry of Defense.
The fraud came to light last week. On Thursday, authorities said the man had posed as Fort in front of a judge, who asked him to give his name: “Walter Glenn Primrose,” the 66-year-old said.
Primrose was ordered to hold no bail by a U.S. district court judge after a prosecutor provided new details about how he and his wife had been fraudulently living for decades under the stolen identities of two dead Texas babies.
While the hearing further deepened the mystery of why the couple lost their past, it provided little clarity on whether the case against them goes beyond stolen identity, though a prosecutor suggested it could have ties abroad.
“We think the defendant is clearly very adept at impersonating other people, obtaining government ID documents, fraud and avoiding detection,” said Assistant US Attorney Wayne Myers. “Maybe—we can’t say for sure—but he may have some disturbing foreign connections. And if he does, he may be able to use it to call for help.”
A search of the couple’s home in Hawaii turned up faded Polaroids of the two wearing jackets that appear to be authentic Russian KGB uniforms, Myers said. An expert determined that the snapshots were taken in the 1980s.
The search also turned up an invisible ink kit, coded language documents and maps of military bases, Myers said.
When the couple was left in a room together, they were taped with “things consistent with espionage,” Myers said.
Federal defense attorney Craig Jerome said the government was only providing “speculation and innuendo” that the pair were involved in something more nefarious than “pure white-collar nonviolent crime”.
“Had it not been for the speculation that the government had been injected into this proceeding without providing any real evidence… he would certainly have been released,” Jerome said.
Prosecutors feared Primrose would flee if she was released. They noted in court documents that he was an electrical engineer with the Coast Guard and was highly skilled at communicating in secret if he was released.
US magistrate Rom Trader said he based his arrest warrant on the alleged fraud “on multiple occasions over a long period of time”.
Morrison awaits a bail hearing on Tuesday.
Her lawyer said the couple — regardless of the names they used — had led a law-abiding life. Attorney Megan Kau told The The Bharat Express News that the couple posed for photos in the alleged KGB jacket for fun.
“She wants everyone to know she’s not a spy,” Kau said. “This is all blown out of proportion. It is too far by the government.”
The couple’s story begins in Texas, where Primrose and Gwynn Darle Morrison attended high school and college together and married in 1980, according to court documents.
In the early 1980s, they told the family they were going into the witness protection program before abruptly leaving their home and leaving Texas, Myers said. They handed over the keys to their home in Nacogdoches and told relatives to bring whatever they wanted. The house was later seized.
When they reappeared, they had new names and different explanations for what happened.
In 1987, Primrose assumed the identity of Fort, a baby who died in 1967 in Burnet, Texas. Morrison assumed the identity of Julie Lyn Montague, who died in 1968 in the same hospital as Fort. Primrose and Morrison, both born in 1955, were more than ten years older than the dates of birth on their new IDs.
“The defendant and his wife reportedly told other employees that they had to change their names for legal and financial reasons,” Myers said. “And that they may be contacted in the future under their new names, Fort and Montague.”
At one point, Primrose told someone he was a government agent and couldn’t share pictures of himself.
According to court records, the couple remarried under their assumed names in 1988.
Primrose had long had an interest in espionage, Myers said. His wife had anti-government and anti-military feelings, and according to an employee, she lived in Romania when it was part of the communist bloc.
Kau denied that Morrison ever lived in Romania.
The couple, who were arrested Friday at their home in Kapolei, are charged with conspiracy to commit a crime against the US, false declarations in passport applications and aggravated identity theft. They face up to 17 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
In their home, investigators discovered correspondence in which an associate believed Primrose had joined the CIA or become a terrorist, Myers said.
Morrison used her real name to open a mailbox, where she instructed the family to contact her. When her father died, her family was unable to reach her and called in the local police to track her down.
“Even the defendant’s family can’t find him when they need to,” Myers said.
Melley reported from Los Angeles.