Garrison Courtney worked for the federal government as a public affairs official.
But Courtney, along with his five aliases, will now spend the next seven years in federal prison.
He lied about working on a highly-classified intelligence program.
He told people he was a covert CIA officer engaged in significant national security work.
Courtney created a completely fake backstory about himself.
He claimed he had served in the U.S. Army during the Gulf War and had hundreds of confirmed kills in combat.
He even told a story that someone attempted to assassinate him by poisoning him with ricin.
According to the story told by Courtney, his classified program was to improve the intelligence-gathering capabilities of the U.S. government.
But, Courtney never worked for the CIA, and the supposed classified program did not exist.
All his stories and claims were false.
Instead, he created this elaborate web of lies to cheat his victims out of over $4.4 million.
He told these companies that they needed to hire and pay him a salary to create what he called a “commercial cover.”
Courtney told the companies that they would be reimbursed for all the money paid to him.
He went to great lengths to convince people he was a secret agent, telling everyone his true identity was classified.
And he asked victims to sign non-disclosure agreements that looked to be from the U.S. government.
He told his victims they were under surveillance by a hostile foreign government.
To enhance the ruse, Courtney searched his victims for electronic devices, and threatened anyone who questioned his legitimacy.
One of the prosecutors stated, “The fraud committed by Garrison Courtney harmed the U.S. intelligence community, individual contractors, and private companies working hard to protect our nation.”
Now, we can all agree that people practicing “stolen valor” (posing as fake military, or law enforcement) are despicable.
But sometimes their lies can be hard to spot.
So, here are a few ways you can spot a fake police officer or secret agent.
Talk too much.
In the story above, Courtney seemed to talk a lot about his classified operations.
But a real CIA officer is tight-lipped.
They would never let you know they even worked for the Agency…
Let alone brag about or discuss clandestine operations.
They would blend in and seem like average Joe’s.
If someone is talking about their covert career you should go along with it.
The trick is to catch them playing along with a lie you made up.
By that, I mean you could praise something that doesn’t exist.
Or talk about a special operation that never happened.
For example, you could mention that your good friend named Bradley Kingston was a well-known officer.
He spent the last part of his career at headquarters.
Now, a true spy would never have this discussion, and they would know what you were up to.
But an imposter might go along with it.
At worst, if the person is a true officer or law enforcement they will think you are only asking stupid questions. (Trust me, they get a lot of stupid questions.)
Talk about training.
I get calls often from people who want to work with me.
Some of them are ex-CIA and were referred from friends of mine.
Others are con men.
I can quickly ask them a few questions about training and see if they know the lingo and what actually happens at The Farm.
It only takes about 60 seconds to know if the person is legit or not.
One time, a fellow wanted to work with me and he claimed he was a former Navy SEAL.
I asked him a few questions about the weapons he carried and what he told me was nothing that Navy SEALs actually carry. It was very easy to see this guy was a fraud.
The bottom line is, if there’s every any doubt in your mind, don’t be afraid to ask a friend who might be in the line of work and who can ferret out a con man.
They are everywhere and you should always take your time to investigate people and never give them money until you’ve done extreme due diligence.