My ex-husband, James Montgomery, told me he had earned the Victoria Cross, Australia’s highest military honor, for his heroism during the Vietnam War. He said he continued his military service for 30 years, as an Australian attached to American Special Operations, including Navy SEALS. He said he became an intelligence analyst for the Special Operations Command and the National Security Agency. I saw the reports that he wrote about Islamic terrorists.
Montgomery was the keynote speaker at a New Jersey Veterans Day ceremony in 1995. His photo, standing at the podium in a camouflage uniform and Special Forces beret, appeared in the newspaper. In 1996 and 1997, I accompanied him to a local grammar school, where he, along with two other area veterans, spoke to schoolchildren about the military and war. A sixth-grade boy asked Montgomery if any of his buddies were killed. Montgomery, softly and slowly, answered yes.
Montgomery was an active member of the local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans Association. In gratitude for his service, they gave him a plaque. It hung on the wall of his office, along with his certificate of membership in the Special Forces Association and a cover photo from Soldier of Fortune magazine. The photo was of James Montgomery.
So did I believe him? Yes.
But it was all a lie. James Montgomery was never in the military. He never served in Vietnam. He never earned any medals.
Exposed in Australia
Montgomery had provided me with voluminous documentation. I sent it to an organization called Australia and New Zealand Military Impostors (ANZMI). They determined that every bit of it was fabricated.
ANZMI posted its expose of Montgomery on ANZMI.net at the same time that I launched Lovefraud.com, in August 2005. Within two weeks, newspapers in Australia, where Montgomery had taken a job at Charles Sturt University, reported that he was a military fake. One headline was, “Meet Major Fraud.”
Montgomery admitted to the reporter that he had never served in the military, but claimed his ruse was part of a “secret government program” to prove how easy it was to impersonate a military hero. The information, he said, was never supposed to be made public and was released by his estranged ex-wife. That would be me.
But Montgomery was pulling the scam in Australia as well. In April 2005—only four months before the news story broke—Montgomery marched in a parade in Bathurst, Australia, for Anzac Day, which is similar to Veterans Day in the U.S. He wore his Special Forces beret and medals on his blazer. The newspaper published a photo under the headline, “Parading Fake Medals.”
35,000 phony SEALS
Sadly, Montgomery’s fraudulent claims are not unusual. VeriSEAL.org, an organization that verifies the background of Special Operations Forces personnel, has exposed 35,000 phony SEALS. This is truly amazing, especially considering that, since 1947, only 11,000 men have actually graduated from the training program.
The POW Network is another organization that exposes military frauds. Its website lists 1,400 fake POWs from Vietnam. Plus, the website exposes other fake or exaggerated military claims. I asked the authors, Chuck and Mary Schantag, how many wannabes are listed on their website. The answer: too many to count.
All of these fakes are guilty of “stolen valor.” They are trying to cloak themselves in the honor and respect earned by the men and women who truly serve in the military. Although this is always despicable, it is usually harmless—guys telling exaggerated stories over a few beers.
However, when sociopaths make these fraudulent claims, they have an agenda. They are deliberately trying to make themselves seem honorable and respectable so they can pull off a con. They’re trying to convince a target to give them what they want—money, sex, a place to live. They need to be believable.
Claiming to be a veteran can work, but posing as a SEAL or Special Forces is even better. Then sociopaths can say their work is covert, and proof of their service is classified. An average victim, who is unfamiliar with the military, would have no idea of how to refute such statements.
How to investigate
If someone is telling you war stories that sound farfetched, here’s what you need to know: You can indeed find out if someone served in the U.S. military. Certain military records are available to the public under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.
Furthermore, there are people who investigate fraudulent claims. VeriSEAL.org can tell you whether or not an individual completed SEAL training. These fake busters have access to information about other Special Operations personnel as well.
So what should you do? Lovefraud.com has just posted a new page called “Is he military?” On it, you’ll learn how to request someone’s U.S. military information. You can also click on links to military databases in the United States and Australia. (Lovefraud wants to list military databases in other countries as well. If you know of any, please send a link to email@example.com.)
Here’s the bottom line: Most true military heroes are extremely reticent about their experiences. If someone is trying to impress you with stories of heroism, he’s probably lying. Use the information on Lovefraud.com to check him out.