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Hawaii couple accused of stealing dead Texas children’s IDs

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HONOLULU – 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 conspiracy against the government, according to federal court records unsealed in Honolulu.

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Walter Glenn Primrose and Gwynn Darle Morrison, both in their 60s, who allegedly lived for decades under the names Bobby Edward Fort and Julie Lyn Montague, were arrested Friday in Kapolei, Oahu.

Prosecutors are seeking to have the couple held without bail, which could indicate there is more to the case than fraudulently obtaining driver’s licenses, passports and Defense Department credentials.

Those documents helped Primrose get a secret security clearance with the U.S. Coast Guard and as a defense contractor, and old photos show the couple in the uniforms of the KGB, Russia’s former spy agency, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Muehleck said in court documents. Faded polaroids of everyone in uniform were included in the design for him to hold.

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Walter Glenn Primrose and Gwynn Darle Morrison are pictured wearing the uniforms of the KGB, Russia's former spy agency, in court documents.
Walter Glenn Primrose and Gwynn Darle Morrison are pictured wearing the uniforms of the KGB, Russia’s former spy agency, in court documents. Photo U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii

A “close associate” said Morrison lived in Romania while it was a Soviet bloc country, Muehleck said.

Morrison’s lawyer said her client had never lived in Romania and that she and Primrose had tried on and posed in the same jacket as a joke. Although the couple used new identities, attorney Megan Kau told The Associated Press, they lived legal lives for three decades.

“He wants everyone to know he’s not a spy,” Kau said. “This was all blown out of proportion. It’s government exaggeration.”

Prosecutors said there was a high risk the couple would flee if released. They also suggested that Primrose, who was an avionics electrical engineer in the Coast Guard, was highly skilled in covert communications if released.

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The couple is believed to have other nicknames as well, Muehleck said.

A lawyer for Primrose declined to comment. A bail hearing was scheduled for Thursday in U.S. District Court.

Primrose’s secret clearance gives him access to information that is “tremendously valuable to our enemies,” said Kevin O’Grady, a Honolulu defense attorney who was not involved in the case.

The Coast Guard works closely with the Army and Navy, assisting with counterintelligence and serving as the nation’s maritime border patrol, said O’Grady, an Army reservist and Lt. Col. Judge Advocate General.

“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 stuff,” he said.

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For one family whose deceased child’s name was stolen, Wednesday’s news came as a shock.

John Montague, who lost his daughter Julia in 1968 at the age of 3 weeks, was stunned to learn that someone had lived under her name for so long.

“I still can’t believe it happened,” Montague, 91, told the AP. “The odds are about one in a trillion that they found her and used her name. People will go for anything these days. Let the children rest in peace.”

Born in 1955, Primrose and Morrison attended high school together in Port Lavaca, Texas, before attending Stephen F. Austin University, according to court records. They married in 1980.

There is no indication in court documents why the couple assumed the identities of the deceased children in 1987, 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 said the couple lost their home in Nacogdoches, Texas, to foreclosure that year.

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They remarried under their false names in 1988, Thomas said.

Court records give no 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 submitted, “it’s a dismal failure,” O’Grady said.

“That’s something if they can figure it out now, they should have caught it back then,” he said.

Montague said “someone is not doing their job”.

Primrose and Morrison applied for and received multiple passports under their false names, according to court records. But in 1999, Primrose also applied for and was issued a passport under his legal name, while also holding a passport in Fort’s name.

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Primrose was on duty until 2016, when he began working for an unnamed defense contractor at the US Coast Guard Air Station at Barbers Point.

“While holding this secret clearance with the U.S. Coast Guard, defendant Primrose was required to report any foreign travel,” prosecutors wrote. “The investigation revealed that the defendant Primrose failed to report several trips to Canada while reporting other foreign trips.”

The couple lived on the outskirts of Honolulu in a modest two-bedroom bungalow under palm trees. They owned a house next door that they rented to military personnel, said Mai Ly Schara, who lived next door.

She knew them as Bob and Lynn, with Morrison apparently Julie Lyn Montague’s middle name.

Primrose did yard work for Schar for $50 a month, she said. Morrison took in, fed, spayed and neutered the cats. She also had several rabbits and dedicated a room to pets.

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“They kept to themselves, but they were friendly,” Schara said. “They were kind of a little goofy.

Schara wasn’t sure what Primrose did for a living, but she thought it had something to do with the military. Morrison once worked as a parking lot attendant at a hotel in Waikiki, but tutored neighborhood kids.

The FBI set up a scene in a quiet neighborhood as they searched the home and took photos.

“It was shocking, like, oh my god,” Schara said. “It was pretty crazy.

The Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the arrest.

The couple is charged with conspiracy to commit a crime against the US, making a false statement in a passport application and aggravated identity theft.

Fort, who lived less than three months, died in October 1967 in the same hospital where Julie Montague died about three months later in January 1968. They are buried 14 miles (23 kilometers) apart.

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When Tonda Ferguson learned from her father that Morrison had used her late sister’s birth certificate to create an alias, she thought back to her mother, who died in 2003, and how many years had passed.

“For all the mothers who are alive and have to know this happened to their children, I can’t even imagine,” Ferguson said. “I’m glad my mom is with the Lord.” It would be so traumatic for her.”

Ferguson was in eighth grade when her sister died. She never saw or held her little sister. She was buried in Burnet, Texas, the small town where they lived outside of Austin at the time.

“She came from a place of love, deep love,” Ferguson said. “It’s hard for someone to turn around and steal her identity for evil. It’s hurtful. … I hope they rot.”

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Melley was reporting from Los Angeles. Caleb Jones in Kapolei, Hawaii, and Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.

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