William Burley, a 36-year-old man from California, has spent years ripping people off.
On Monday, Burley was sentenced to three years in jail for defrauding a Christian charity group who sought his Navy SEAL “skills” to help them rescue kidnapped aid workers in Somalia.Image Credit: Screenshot/YouTube
The judge also ordered him to pay full restitution of $32,454 to the Christian nonprofit aid group.
Douglas Mann, president of the U.S. arm of International Aid Services (IAS), said:
“The biggest travesty was it wasn’t just somebody tricking you, but there are people’s lives in the balance. He did a pretty awful thing, and it’s good he’ll have to pay accounts for that.”
Four IAS workers were ambushed and assaulted in Somalia while doing humanitarian work. According to the Justice Department, one worker was shot and the three others were kidnapped.Image Credit: International Aid Services
Burley claimed he was a Navy SEAL and offered to help negotiate with the Somali captors and rescue the hostages if need be.
He toted numerous Naval accommodations, educational credentials, and falsely claimed to have been a consultant for the Navy and Departments of Defense and State.
IAS America agreed to pay Burley $30,000 for himself and another person to travel to Kenya. After he reported that his negotiations had failed, he returned to America with a “rescue plan” and presented more claims about his “past achievements.”
The nonprofit contacted Don Shipley — a man well-known for exposing SEAL impersonators — after Burley’s empty-handed return aroused suspicion. Don Shipley confronted the conman in a YouTube video:
In the video, Burley was unable to identify a single member of his graduating class, and Shipley questioned why a commanding officer wasn’t listed on his Seal Training Certificate.
Shipley told Burley:
“The database doesn’t lie…and you didn’t graduate in July of 2000 because no class did.”
The worker who was shot recovered, and in June 2014, the hostages were released.Image Credit: International Aid Services
But this isn’t the first time that Burley has tried to impersonate a federal agent for personal gain.
In 2006 he served two years of a ten-year sentence for conspiracy to commit robbery. Burley violated his probation when he worked as a police officer for four months in New Mexico.
In April, 2013, he pleaded not guilty to illegal possession of firearms. A police officer discovered weapons in his trunk during a traffic stop in February, 2013.
Burley claimed he was a federal agent and showed the officer a Homeland Security badge, according to Chris Condon, a spokesman for the Probation Department in San Bernadino.
Don Shipley claims the only connection Burley has to the Navy is that he was discharged from a Naval apprentice school for “bad conduct” after serving mere months.