By JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER and BRIAN MELLEY Associated Press
HONOLULU (AP) — A U.S. defense contractor and his wife who lived for decades under the identities of two dead Texas children have been charged with identity theft and conspiring against the government, according to federal court records unsealed in Honolulu.
Walter Glenn Primrose and Gwynn Darle Morrison, both in their late 60s, who allegedly lived for decades under the names Bobby Edward Fort and Julie Lyn Montague, respectively, were arrested Friday in Kapolei on the island of Oahu.
Prosecutors are seeking to have the couple held without bail, which could indicate the case is about more than fraudulently obtaining drivers’ licenses, passports and Defense Department credentials. Those documents helped Primrose get secret security clearance with the U.S. Coast Guard and as a defense contractor.
Old photos show the couple wearing uniforms of the KGB, the former Russian spy agency, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Muehleck said. Faded Polaroids of each in uniform were included in the motion to have them held.
A “close associate” of Morrison said she lived in Romania while it was a Soviet bloc country, Muehleck said.
Prosecutors said there is a high risk the couple would flee if freed. They also suggested that Primrose, who was an avionics electrical technician in the Coast Guard, was highly skilled to communicate secretly if released.
The couple is also believed to have other aliases, Muehleck said.
Lawyers for the couple declined to comment. A bail hearing is scheduled Thursday in U.S. District Court.
The secret clearance Primrose had provides access to information that is “enormously valuable to our enemies,” said Kevin O’Grady, a Honolulu defense attorney not involved in the case.
The Coast Guard works closely with the Army and Navy, helps with counterintelligence and serves as the country’s water border patrol, said O’Grady, an Army reservist and lieutenant colonel judge advocate.
“The Coast Guard has a unique perspective on our vulnerabilities,” he said, including how to infiltrate the country through water ports. Hawaii, a major military center, “is a prime target for a lot of espionage and such,” he said.
For at least one family whose deceased child’s name was stolen, the news Wednesday came as a shock.
John Montague, who lost his daughter Julie in 1968 at 3 weeks of age, was stunned to learn someone had been living under her name for so long.
“I still can’t believe it happened,” Montague, 91, told The Associated Press. “The odds are like one-in-a-trillion that they found her and used her name. People stoop to do anything nowadays. Let kids rest in peace.”
Primrose and Morrison were born in 1955 and they attended high school together in Port Lavaca, Texas, and then went to Stephen F. Austin University, according to court records. They married in 1980.
There is no indication in court papers why the couple in 1987 assumed the identities of deceased children who would have been more than a decade younger than them. But an affidavit filed by Special Agent Dennis Thomas of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service noted that the couple lost their home in Nacogdoches, Texas, to foreclosure that year.
Court records don’t provide any information about what happened from the time they assumed their new identities until 1994 when Primrose, then about 39, enlisted in the Coast Guard as Fort, who would have been about 27.
If there was an obvious age discrepancy between what Primrose looked like and the birth certificate he presented, “that’s an abject failure,” O’Grady said.
“That’s something if they can figure it out now, they should have caught it then,” he said.
Montague said that “somebody’s not doing their jobs.”
Primrose served in the service until 2016 when he began work for an unnamed defense contractor at the U.S. Coast Guard Air station at Barbers Point.
“While he held that Secret clearance with the U.S. Coast Guard, defendant Primrose was required to report any foreign travel,” prosecutors wrote. “Investigation has revealed that defendant Primrose did not report several trips to Canada while he did report other foreign travel.”
The couple is charged with aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit an offense against the U.S. and false statement in application for a passport.
Melley reported from Los Angeles.