Impostor Scams Dozens Of Victims In At Least Five States
Navy SEAL Impostor Said He Was Fighting Terrorists In Afghanistan, Close To Fallen SEALs
TAMPA , Florida -- VeriSEAL is continuing its investigation into the false military claims of 48 year old James Dearing Johnson of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Johnson, an insurance adjuster and former car salesman has misled over a dozen women by claiming to be an active duty Navy SEAL deployed to Afghanistan in March 2003 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). Many of these women have been asked to marry him. In some cases he has given them 'engagement' rings and spoken of purchasing a house after 'this stupid war' is over. In one instance a victim of Johnson's sold her home and purchased a larger one so there would be 'more room' for the larger family when they married. In a number of instances, Johnson communicated with the children of some of the victims and became their 'hero' in the Gulf War. On speaking with the mother of one of these children, she remarked, "My son is devastated that Johnson is a fake. I hope he'll soon get over this and realize there are bad people in the world who don't tell the truth."
On January 1, 2004, VeriSEAL received a request to verify James Dearing Johnson's military service as a US Navy SEAL attached to SEAL Team FOUR and currently deployed to Afghanistan. A records check showed no record of James Dearing Johnson having graduated from the Navy's Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL program known as BUD/S. Attending and graduating BUD/S is a prerequisite to becoming a Navy SEAL.
VeriSEAL's investigation has revealed Johnson has used false claims of Special Operations duty to impress and romance women in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Ohio. Johnson has proposed marriage to several of the women and was named as beneficiary on an insurance policy by at least one victim of his deception.
Johnson frequently purported to e-mail and telephone many of the women, relating stories of combat and courage, death and destruction under fire as a Navy SEAL fighting Al-Qaeda and Taliban guerillas in the isolated mountains and deserts of Afghanistan.
In numerous e-mails obtained by VeriSEAL, Johnson communicated detailed "firsthand" accounts of his experiences that left some of the women in tears and praying for his safe return. Whenever news broke of victories or casualties on the battlefield, it seemed Johnson was there. Supposedly a Navy Lieutenant Commander and combat-hardened SEAL, Johnson was in the thick of it, enduring hardship, prevailing in hellish firefights. A 10-foot tall real live American hero. Or so dozens of unsuspecting women believed.
In fact, Johnson had never left his home in Rocky Mount.
Johnson used the e-mail address "email@example.com" and attached a signature to his mail, which read:
D. Johnson, LCDR, USNR
Johnson later modified the last line to read "Perry Van Hoiser, CDR, Chief of Staff".
Capt. Perry Van Hooser is a real SEAL and former Commanding Officer of SEAL Team FOUR.
"Despite his misspelling and demotion of Captain Van Hooser, it is clear Johnson has been closely observing events and incorporating factual details to make his charade more convincing," says a spokesman for VeriSEAL.
On one occasion, Johnson showed up "on leave" at the home of one of his admirers, dressed in full desert fatigues. So smitten, the woman resisted sweeping up dirt left behind by his combat boots during his visit.
Said another: "He 'calls from Afghanistan' - has incredible stories about the current situation. He has stated he personally knew several of the reported SEALs killed during OEF and OIF."
One of those SEALs was David Tapper of New Jersey, who was killed in Afghanistan on August 20, 2003 when his convoy came under attack. Johnson persuaded one of his victims to contact Tapper's family and express Johnson's condolences as one of the fallen SEAL's close teammates who had been nearby at the time of the attack.
Former SEAL Christopher Mueller who was killed while conducting covert CIA paramilitary operations in the former Al-Qaeda strongholds of eastern Afghanistan, was another SEAL with whom Johnson claimed a close, personal bond.
In a pre-employment interview with Pope & Company, of Rocky Mount, NC, Johnson claimed involvement in the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada, in which several Navy SEALs died during an insertion mishap. Johnson spoke of standing beside a teammate when that teammate allegedly received a mortal wound to the neck.
Despite the accessibility of information offered by organizations like VeriSEAL, many employers still fail to conduct competent background investigations of prospective employees who claim military service. Such employers may be placing the integrity and reputation of their business at risk by hiring impostors.
"I'm glad there are men like you that fight for the truth," one of Johnson's stunned victims told VeriSEAL, after learning that her "hero" was nothing more than a scoundrel trading on the courage and sacrifice of America's armed services.
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