A Texas man spent 20 years in the U.S. Coast Guard using the stolen identity of a dead baby, gaining a secret-level security clearance and baffling investigators who later uncovered reports that the man and his wife – who also lived under an assumed name – may have had ties to Russian intelligence, according to court documents reviewed by The Daily Beast.
Walter Glenn Primrose, 67, and Gwynn Darle Morrison, also 67, are accused of carrying out a mysterious scheme in which they disguised themselves as stolen personas for decades. Primrose, who retired from the Coast Guard as an avionics technician in 2016, later worked as a licensed defense contractor at US Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point in Hawaii.
He continues to hold a government-issued security clearance, which investigators say he has had for more than two decades. Last year a Russian spy ship spotted off Hawaii for several days. In 2021, a Russian ship was tracked near Hawaiian watersin one incident, an expert said echoes Cold War-era activities.
Primrose, who was born in Texas, and Morrison, who was born in Virginia, both attended the same high school in Port Lavaca, Texas and then went on to the same college in Nacogdoches, graduating in 1979, says complaint unsealed Friday in federal court in Honolulu and first obtained by The Daily Beast. They married in August 1980 and bought a house together the following year, he says.
In 1987, investigators allege that Primrose and Morrison “both obtained Texas birth certificates for deceased infants born in the United States, which they used to illegally assume the identity of ‘Bobby Edward’ respectively. Loud” and of “Julie Lyn Montague”. The two “have since committed acts of criminal fraud,” according to the complaint.
Fort was born in Dallas in July 1967 and died in October of asphyxiation, according to the complaint. Montague was born in Burnet, Texas, in 1968 and also died before her first birthday, the complaint states. The two children were buried in cemeteries 14 miles apart.
The couple reportedly got driver’s licenses and state ID cards under their new fake identities, as well as new Social Security numbers as Fort and Montague.
Within six months, Primrose and Morrison “had succeeded in assuming the identities” of Fort and Montague, the complaint states.
“Furthermore, records obtained by your affiant revealed that Primrose and Morrison remarried on August 8, 1988 under their respective assumed identities…in Austin, TX,” he says.
In 1994, at the age of 39, Primrose joined the Coast Guard, eight years above the maximum enlistment age. But as Bobby Fort, he was only 27 years old.
For the next two decades Primrose served as a fort, stationed at Barbers Point and becoming Treasurer of the Hawaiian Islands Chapter of the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers’ Association.
The 200 officers and enlisted personnel at Barbers Point “maintain an annual 24-hour vigil…providing support to air missions in the areas of search and rescue, marine environmental protection, law enforcement maritime law and aids to navigation”. says the Coast Guard. “Since 1979, the unit has received two Unit Honors and four Meritorious Exemplary Service Awards. To accomplish its assigned missions, the air station uses four Aerospatiale HH-65A “Dolphin” short-range recovery helicopters and four Lockheed HC-130H “Hercules” long-range research aircraft.
Primrose and Morrison have settled into their new life together, settling in Kapolei on the island of Oahu.
When his snag with the Coast Guard ended, Primrose – still successfully claiming to be Fort – got a job with an unnamed defense contractor, “where he continues to work currently,” the complaint states.
Between 1996 and 2016, Primrose applied for and received at least five U.S. passports in Fort’s name, according to investigators. In 1999, Primrose also obtained a passport in her name, according to authorities.
Morrison, for his part, obtained at least three U.S. passports in Montague’s name, but never just one, according to the complaint.
The ruse apparently began to unravel in 2018, when the couple applied for military health care benefits as Fort and Montague, according to the complaint.
In a detention note filed on MondayFederal prosecutors say Primrose and Morrison are too dangerous to go free, even though they aren’t 100% sure why.
They believe the couple established false identities beyond those of Fort and Montague, saying federal agents seized correspondence found at their home “in which greetings in the letters refer to defendants by other names.” whether Bobby, Julie, Walter or Gwynn,” the memo reads, adding that a “close associate” of Morrison told investigators she lived in Romania for a time during the Soviet era.
Primrose, as a Coast Guard avionics technician, “became highly skilled in electronics and would be able to surreptitiously communicate with others if released from pretrial detention,” the memo reads.
And, perhaps most chillingly: “Federal agents have also seized photographs from the residence of the defendants which depict the defendants apparently wearing what have been identified as KGB uniforms a few years ago.”
Jan Neumann, a former FSB counterintelligence officer who defected to the United States in 2008, told The Daily Beast that successfully co-opting another person’s identity requires “special skill”.
“What made them do it? Neumann asked. “What was the trigger? Who taught them to do things right? And why?”
In 1987, when Primrose and Morrison allegedly started the bizarre scheme, there were “no computers, no Google, nothing at all,” Neumann continued. “1987 compared to now is like the Stone Age. Developing the legends, creating the legends, that’s a special skill.
Identity theft in the military usually goes the other way – with military families are almost twice as likely to have their personal data stolen than those in the civilian sector.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Hawaii did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment, nor did Megan Kau, the attorney identified in court records as Morrison’s attorney. In an email, Salina Kanai, the court-appointed attorney representing Primrose, declined to comment. Primrose and Morrison are being held without bond and are due in court on Thursday.
Prosecutors said in their detention note that the couple’s home cannot be used as collateral since the two “mortgaged their Kapolei properties under their false identities, thereby committing bank fraud.”
Primrose and Morrison are both charged with conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States; making false statements on a passport application; and aggravated identity theft. If convicted on all three counts, the two men each face a combined maximum of 22 years in prison.