Bobby Edward Fort was 27 when he enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1994 and retired 22 years later with a secret security clearance that landed him a job in Honolulu as a defense contractor.
But in reality, Bobby Fort died a long time ago. He was just under 3 months old when he choked to death in a Texas hospital in 1967.
The Bobby Fort who enlisted in the Coast Guard had stolen the identity of the dead baby 35 years ago. A fake birth certificate helped him obtain five passports, driver’s licenses and Department of Defense credentials.
The fraud was discovered last week. On Thursday, authorities said the man posed as Fort before a judge, who asked him to say his name: “Walter Glenn Primrose,” the 66-year-old said.
A US District Court judge ordered Primrose held without bail after a prosecutor provided new details about how he and his wife had been living fraudulently for decades under the stolen identities of two babies. Texas dead.
While the hearing further deepened the mystery of why the couple shed their past, it provided little clarity on whether the case against them goes beyond identity theft, though a prosecutor suggested they might have overseas ties.
“We think the defendant is obviously very skilled at impersonating other people, obtaining government identification documents, fraud, avoiding detection,” Assistant US Attorney Wayne Myers said. “Maybe, we’re not saying for sure, but he may have some troublesome foreign connections. And if he does, he could use them to get 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, scrambled language documents and maps showing military bases, Myers said.
When the couple stood together in a room, they were recorded saying “things consistent with espionage,” Myers said.
Federal defender Craig Jerome said the government only provided “speculation and innuendo” that the couple were involved in something more nefarious than “purely white-collar nonviolent crimes.”
“If it wasn’t for the speculation that the government injected into these proceedings without providing any real evidence…I would certainly be released,” Jerome said.
Prosecutors feared Primrose would flee if released. They noted in court documents that he was an avionics electrical technician in the Coast Guard and was highly trained to communicate secretly if he was released.
Federal Judge Rom Trader said he based his arrest warrant on the alleged fraud “on multiple occasions over a long period of time.”
Morrison faces a bond hearing on Tuesday.
Their attorney said the couple, regardless of what names they used, had lived law-abiding lives. Lawyer Megan Kau told The Associated Press that the couple posed for photos in the supposed KGB jacket for fun.
“She wants everyone to know she’s not a spy,” Kau said. “All of this has been blown out of proportion. It’s government overreach.”
The couple’s story begins in Texas, where Primrose and Gwynn Darle Morrison attended high school and college together and were married in 1980, according to court documents.
In the early 1980s, his family was told they would enter the witness protection program before abruptly leaving home and leaving Texas, Myers said. They handed over the keys to their Nacogdoches home and told family members to take what they wanted. Later, the house was repossessed.
When they resurfaced they had new names and different explanations for what had happened.
In 1987, Primrose assumed the identity of Fort, a baby who died in 1967 in Burnet, Texas. Morrison took on 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 a decade older than the dates of birth listed on their new IDs.
“The defendant and his wife reportedly told other associates that they needed to change their names for legal and financial reasons,” Myers said. “And that in the future they can be contacted using their new names, Fort and Montague.”
At one point, Primrose told someone he was a government agent and couldn’t share photos of himself.
The couple remarried under their assumed names in 1988, according to court records.
Primrose had a long-standing interest in espionage, Myers said. His wife had anti-government and anti-militarist sentiments and an associate said that she lived in Romania when she was part of the communist bloc.
Kau denied that Morrison had ever lived in Romania.
The couple, who were arrested Friday at their Kapolei home, are charged with conspiracy to commit a crime against the United States, false statement on passport application and aggravated identity theft. They face up to 17 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
Inside her 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 post office box, where she told her family to contact her. When her father died, her family was unable to contact her and enlisted the local police to locate her.
“Even the defendant’s family can’t find him when they need him,” Myers said.
Melley reported from Los Angeles