Oops... I Married a Con Artist!
A True Story by Deborah Nelson
A cut above the others. A man of his word. Clean cut. Tall, dark, and… The
sound of the car door opening as Sophie plopped herself onto the seat jolted
me out of my daydream.
Raising Sophie was my 24/7 assignment. Her father and I had divorced 14
years ago. Now he refused to pay child support and didn’t bother to take
advantage of visitation rights with Sophie. Sophie’s involvement in sports,
music, and honors programs accelerated over the years. I joined a gym to get
fit and to try to keep up with her. Financially strapped and 20 minutes
behind in life, we continuously juggled time, energy, and money shortages. I
longed to be rescued. Where was that man in my life?
“Mom, get up!” Sophie called just before sunrise. She needed a ride to
school. Coming to full consciousness, I remembered we had not gotten home
from the ball game last night until eleven. No time for a hot bubble bath
this morning, and it wouldn’t soften this boot camp lifestyle anyway. I want
a husband to share this load.
An Officer and a Gentleman
Then one day he arrived—Frank, my knight in shining armor He didn’t just
talk of slaying dragons, he went right to work on them. He chased away an
unfit boyfriend who had eased himself into Sophie’s life. He successfully
confronted an unscrupulous male vendor in one of my most challenging
business situations, saving my business and $5,000. His persuasive manner
and loving cooking enticed my daughter to eat meat once again. Because he
made it his business to cook her favorite meat dishes, she regained her
health after having developing serious anemia from a fad Vegan diet.
Frank and I had met casually at the post office. A few telephone
conversations later and he arrived at my place of business in uniform to
take me out to lunch. Tall, dark, and handsome, Frank was an accomplished
Air Force Academy graduate, officer, pilot, and church-going man. After 14
years of waiting, my dream about to come true. God owed me this one.
A Dream Wedding
The day was pristine, the air crystalline, and the sea around us a sparkling
turquoise as we spoke our vows to one another. Overlooking the ocean from
the Captain’s bow, we could see forever—this was a beautiful prelude to our
future life together. It was August 7, 2000.
Because this was a second marriage for each of us, we agreed a quiet wedding
cruise would be romantic. Frank arranged for Sophie to have a private room
onboard ship so that she could be my maid of honor. I can still envision our
breathtaking wedding on the ship floating on the Caribbean Sea. It was
simple, elegant, and tranquil—a heaven-sent marriage. I vowed to dedicate
all my being toward my husband’s happiness.
Once home, even the mundane took on a quality of special-ness. Frank took us
to church, to dinner, and on movie dates. He continued to court me, politely
including Sophie. Frank remembered holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries
with flowers. Following our wedding, he booked a honeymoon cruise for later.
My perfect husband had come to life.
Peace, as tranquil as the eye of a storm, enveloped our household. It was
interrupted only by the normal minor adjustments each of us had to make to
married life. Then Frank was promoted to major. I was disappointed when I
was not invited to the ceremony. “At the last minute, my team flew in from
Washington D.C. I barely knew about it,” Frank explained. He atoned by
hosting a dinner and inviting non-military friends to celebrate his new
Then came 911. The Air Force put Frank on “red alert” for a combat mission
to Afghanistan. On September 18, my major rose early and kissed me good-bye.
Proudly, I posted Frank’s photo amidst the other servicemen’s photos on our
church bulletin board and fervently prayed for my major to come home alive.
He arrived home ten days later. I noted others were gone longer. Back from a
top-secret mission, I tried to decode his dark moods and silence. Just part
of his responsible nature, I reasoned. He often reminded me of his
top-secret clearance and I…I just submitted to his stifling gag order.
The Honeymoon Is Over
Tension arose in our marriage when I began to pressure Frank for dependent
military identification. Sophie needed an athletic physical and I needed
dental work. But Frank dragged his feet about finalizing our military
Then there was the delayed honeymoon. As I was finally and happily packing
for the cruise, Frank cracked his tooth on a fruitcake nutshell. We
cancelled the trip just hours before we were to leave. Everyone knew the
ship’s onboard dentist could have taken care of Frank’s tooth, but he
refused to go. And I cried my heart out. Our honeymoon trip was over before
I began to be besieged by mounting insecurities and suspicions. I ask Frank
to join me in marriage counseling so that we could confront trust issues and
financial concerns. He said the problem was mine—that I had not yet overcome
my fear of trusting men. In good faith, I had shared my assets with Frank
and conveyed half interest in my home to him; but it seemed he wasn’t
willing to share anything with me. What was mine was ours, and what was his
was still his. To assuage my fears, he finally agreed to attend marriage
counseling with Dr. T.
A True Story by Deborah
Find out more at
www.thedatingpassport.com; and if you join, use promotional code #
ooops-001 for a 10% discount.
The Truth Comes
Then one day while I was cleaning, I found airplane tickets and
receipts showing a Philippine destination at the time of his
supposed Afghanistan mission. A travel agency, not the military, had
issued the tickets to Frank. Torn between betraying Frank and
learning the truth, I wanted to pretend I had not seen this. But if
I were to deny the truth, I would betray myself. I had to find a
At our next counseling session, I confronted Frank about the
Philippines. He explained he’d been assigned to perform a special
mission under civilian cover. His reluctant, but assured, manner
conveyed a top-secret aura. My feelings were mixed. I was ashamed
that I had disrespected Frank’s career, but I was relieved by his
explanation. And I was confused because there was still a lack of
Our counselor advised me to accept Frank’s explanation at face
value, but his face showed growing concern. My mind became a
battlefield of conflicting questions. Why can’t I just trust him?
Why had Frank misled me about his mission’s destination? How do
other officers’ wives handle these situations?
I would have loved my knight in shining armor forever had not cracks
in his armor continued to emerge. His “top-secret” missions just
weren’t adding up. Now my sister and Sophie became suspicious. They
ran an Internet background check and learned Frank wasn’t an Air
Force Academy graduate, pilot, or major. He was not a college
graduate either. It was all a lie! But they were certain that at
this point I would not believe such allegations. So they delayed
Confusion with Frank’s credit and identity because his full name was
rather common, brought increasing public embarrassment. The time had
come to combat my imaginings once and for all. I sent an inquiry to
the United States Air Force in Washington D.C. to find out if Frank
might possibly be impersonating an officer. A pilot friend had
become suspicious of Frank’s lack of aircraft knowledge. He
volunteered to search Frank’s social security number through some
connections he had. I took him up on it.
About then a city detective spoke with me. He had recently arrested
Frank on a $37,000 check fraud charge. Frank had professed mistaken
identity. Mistaken identity or identity fraud? I began to think
about confronting Frank, but would I endanger myself and Sophie?
Would he tell the truth? I have to know who he is…or isn’t, my mind
Looking back, I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I knew who he
wasn’t. The real Frank is buried beneath multiple layers of
cover-ups. So instead of confronting him only to rouse another
cover-up, I became a spy wife! For 22 minutes each day while he
showered, I searched his wallet for evidence; nervously scampering
down to my office to make copies of everything I could get my hands
I was heartsick when I heard from the local Office of Special
Investigations (OSI) that Frank’s shiny patent leather shoes,
pilot’s wings, medals, and insignias, weren’t Air Force issued, and
the so-called housing allotment from the US Treasury turned out to
be a meager disability check.
As spy wife, I felt like an amateur playing chess with a seasoned
master. Clearly, I had to find some irrefutable evidence. Only that
would show the truth to be more believable than Frank’s lies.
Apprehensive about the danger I might be in, I played the devoted
wife, while I continued spying. I needed to know his real identity
My sister and Sophie finally revealed the results of their
investigation to me. We formed an ad hoc spy team. At that point, we
only knew who Frank was not, but piece-by-piece, our spy team
assembled the bigger picture.
We found that Frank was 10 years younger than he claimed to be. We
learned that he had used numerous social security numbers. His true
social security number led us to a criminal history fraught with
dismissals and probations for felony fraud offenses.
We deduced I wasn’t his second wife, but his fifth. He’d fathered at
least four children, yet claimed only one. We tracked down two of
Frank’s former wives in town, and both were remarkably understanding
and helpful. Both had unresolved issues with Frank. He had used
their credit cards even during our marriage. The former wives joined
our spy team and together we pressed credit card fraud charges
Dr. T, now wise to Frank’s game, used our last counseling session to
influence Frank to return his interest in my property. “You’re an
Air Force Major, right?” Frank nodded yes. “You don’t need her
money, do you?” Dr. T challenged. Determined to preserve his false
identity, our “major” boldly signed the deed. Dr T. had a notary
standing by to make it legal. Outside, an angry Frank proclaimed,
“I’m finished with marriage counseling!”
Because Frank had impersonated an officer/pilot and traveled to the
Philippines shortly after the 911 terror attacks, a possible
terrorism connection couldn’t be ignored. Then a question arose in
my mind. Could I be considered an accomplice to whatever Frank had
done? I decided I had to cooperate fully with the OSI.
As the OSI prepared to arrest Frank for impersonating an officer,
they requested I keep a log of the times Frank went out in uniform.
Had I awakened on the scene of a 007 movie? I wondered.
“Next time he dresses in uniform, page me, and we’ll arrest him,”
the OSI major ordered.
Legal Rights and Wrongs
Frank put on his uniform and left the house so, as instructed, I
paged the OSI. Their response shocked me. “We aren’t going to arrest
him; he’s never been military and isn’t in our jurisdiction.” I
asked how they knew. “We ran his social security number,” he
replied. “Which one?” I asked incredulously. “The one on his
military ID.” I couldn’t believe my ears. “You ran his false social
security number on his false military ID to determine he’s never
been military?” “Yes,” the officer replied unflinchingly. More of
the unbelievable was yet to come.
On July 7, 2002 I’d had enough. Frank had long since quit
contributing financially to our family. It had only been a show of
credibility anyway. Weary of supporting him while awaiting his
arrest, and satisfied with the proof of fraud that we had
accumulated, I decided to seek an annulment. I changed the security
code to my home. Frank, not to be deterred, broke in. Sophie and I
Frank told them he had a right to “break into his own home.” The
police asked for his identification for their report. Frank could
not produce valid identification.
As police questioned Frank, Sophie quietly dashed upstairs to his
office. Because she had been investigating him and had come up with
so many inconsistencies between his stories and truth, she was sure
he had fake IDs stashed somewhere. In the deep dark recesses of his
closet, she reached into a tuxedo jacket pocket and struck a
goldmine of false ID cards, credit cards, and cash Frank had taken
from my purse. My driver’s license was there too. She discretely
handed them to the officer. In moments Frank was arrested for false
ID. Frank wasn’t, however, charged with the theft of my cash or
driver’s license. “Community property can’t be stolen,” police
explained. It turns out Frank had paid for our courtship with a
(spousal) credit card from one of his previous wives. She still
dealing with the credit card companies and police for his this ID
theft 3 years after their annulment because he was still using her
information to obtain credit cards; and charging against her credit!
(For the best ID Theft Shield, go to
Not knowing how Frank might retaliate should he discover my spying,
I played dumb and reacted with utter shock when informed of his
false identity. The police took him away, but shortly afterward they
came back to warn us. Frank had been released by the FBI and he was
walking home. They advised us to get out and stay elsewhere for
safety. They couldn’t arrest him because the FBI now had
jurisdiction. Why the FBI let him go is still a mystery.
“I have a right to be here,” declared Frank when I called home to
ask him to leave. My neighbor had called the police for Frank and
they had helped him break into my house. The police told me that
without divorce papers or a restraining order, Frank had a right to
be there! After months of my assisting the OSI and FBI, Frank was
free and making me a refugee from my own home. Even though Frank had
fake military ID and the FBI knew it, the FBI declined to charge
him. It was unbelievable!
The following day I filed for a temporary restraining order and
moved home as soon as the police escorted Frank out. Next, I endured
a series of nerve-wracking hearings to fight for a permanent
Frank hired an attorney, but because my finances had been depleted
by his embezzlement, it was necessary for me to represent myself
with the help of a Pre-Paid Legal Service (www.empowered.biz);
Frank’s exes, Darla and Delia, joined me in court and held my hand
to keep me brave. Thanks to a discerning female judge and astute
witnesses, we won the case! I had become spy wife, detective, and
now an attorney.
Frank had used his imaginary military rank like a magic wand to
achieve his desires. His uniform disarmed people, overruled
suspicion, and granted him instant authority.
With a fraudulent credit report, he acquired a $10,000 loan in
uniform from a military credit union. In uniform he sweet-talked a
teller into cashing a large counter check on my business account.
The account went negative and was closed. It took nine months,
copies of the annulment, restraining order, and notarized fraud
affidavits to reopen that account.
In uniform “my hero” secretly borrowed money from my dearest
friends, explaining that my business was undergoing adversity and
that I was too proud to ask for help. Frank “borrowed”
thousands—thousands for which I was liable.
Frank’s case went from the United States Air Force (OSI) to Homeland
security, to the FBI and, finally, to the Colorado Attorney General.
An agent came to retrieve evidence—uniform and medals.
The FBI investigation finally concluded, but in another episode of
the unbelievable, the agent explained, “Ms. Nelson, the attorney
general has decided not to take enforcement action against Frank.”
They had deemed Frank’s impersonation was not prosecutable, because
he hadn’t cost society at least $100,000 within two years! And to
further compound the unbelievable, no one bothered to inform the
local police that they now had jurisdiction to pursue the charge.
One More Time
The knock at my door on October 20, 2003 startled me. I opened it to
a police officer whom Frank had corralled to come “get a jacket from
my home.” I was overcome with fear, and the officer had to calm me
down so I could locate the restraining order. Although illegal for
Frank to be within 100 yards of my house, he stood in the front yard
and taunted me for hours. Frank had cunningly applied one more legal
ruse to violate the restraining order and avoid arrest—for the
Once they understood Frank’s game, police scrambled to arrest him
for something—military license plates became their focus.
Collaborating with the FBI, police were told not to arrest Frank for
the plates. He had been in the military in1976! What? The OSI had
earlier declined to arrest Frank for impersonation because they said
he’d never been in the military! Finally the police gave up and
wrote him a ticket for driving without a license.
Despite documentation of fraud and impersonation of a military
officer that was provided to the OSI and FBI, Frank has yet to be
charged with any of these crimes. He is still not in jail. The
Selective Service and United States Air Force records via the Public
Information Act, verify that this man was indeed in the military
(Air Force) from 1972-1976. But when I married him, he was no longer
in the military and was certainly never a major. I was able to get
an annulment and I was released from potential financial or criminal
liability created by and during my marriage to Frank.
Sophie graduated from college and has moved on to her career. I’m
spending more and more time away from the city where this all
happened and where Frank still lives. We’re all right, but have
determined never to be duped by a con man in uniform or any other
dress again. We are also determined to do everything we can to help
other women avoid the pain of relationship fraud.
You need to know whom you fall in love with. But how can anyone
really know? Should we run a background check on everyone we date?
How practical is that? Over 50% of online daters present a fantasy
or false persona. I don’t want to fill you with so much suspicion
that you’ll never fall in love again. But you must learn to discern
the difference between your fantasy man and a real man.
But How? Here’s a quick, easy way: Deborah Nelson has teamed up with
Colorado Private Investigator Linda Schneeloch to create a unique
inexpensive identity verification service that protects online
daters from “fantasy” fraud. Linda, who like her partner is also a
former fraud victim, specializes in fraud and identity theft
investigation and also provides pro bono research to the non-profit
anti-fraud organization, CUFF, Citizens United to Find Fugitives (www.straighshooter.net)
In May 2006, Deborah and Linda went online with their company,
The Dating Passport (www.thedatingpassport.com).
A Dating Passport membership, which costs $59.00 annually, certifies the
identity of its members by researching information provided in the
application. Seven, non-invasive identity facts about the member
taken from the application, such as name, year of birth and last
city of residence, are published in the Dating Passport database. When a
member wants to allow a new friend or love-interest to verify their
identity, they provide their unique membership code, which accesses
the member's certificate that verifies their identity.
This service gives power to online daters with a proactive
opportunity to protect them from fraud and to weed out the players
and con artists who will refuse to allow their identities to be
Find out more at
www.thedatingpassport.com; and if you
join, use promotional code # ooops-001 for a 10% discount.
This work is copyrighted by the author. No
unauthorized duplication or presentation allowed. Copyright © 2006
Deborah Nelson All Rights Reserved Reprinted With Permission
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