The wife of a U.S. defense contractor, who together are charged in Hawaii federal court with fraudulently cloaking themselves in theof two deceased Texas infants for three decades, said Tuesday that she’s not the person prosecutors say she is.
When the case of Gwynn Darle Morrison was called in U.S. District Court in Honolulu, she said: “That’s what they’re calling me.”
She claims she’s actually Julie Lyn Montague, who prosecutors said died in 1968 when she was three weeks old and later had her identity stolen.
The assertion put her at odds with her husband, who has acknowledged he’s Walter Glenn Primrose and not Bobby Edward Fort, the identity he allegedly used to enlist in the U.S. Coast Guard in 1994 and gain secret security clearance that allowed him to work as a defense contractor.
Fort was about 10 weeks old when he died in late 1967 at the same Burnet, Texas, hospital where Montague died a few months later.
Not guilty pleas were entered Tuesday on behalf of the couple to charges of conspiracy, false statement in a passport application and aggravated identity theft. They face up to 17 years in prison if convicted of all charges.
Both were ordered detained until a trial was scheduled Sept. 26.
The dispute over the real name of the wife added a new layer of intrigue to a case that may amount to more than stolen identities.
A search of the couple’s Hawaii home turned up photos that appear to be shot in the 1980s of the two, the former spy agency, prosecutors said. Investigators also found an invisible ink kit, documents with coded language and maps showing military bases.
When the couple were left in a room together, they were unwittingly recorded saying “things consistent with espionage,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Wayne Myers said last week.
Defense lawyer Megan Kau said Montague is the only name her client has ever used. Kau said the couple appeared to wear the same KGB jacket in the photos and her client was only in a T-shirt. Kau said she hasn’t heard the recording of a discussion allegedly involving espionage.
“All my client remembers is that her husband told her, ‘They think we’re spies,'” Kau said. “So, yes, the word spy was brought up because the government is accusing them of being spies.”
Kau argued that her client had no criminal record and there was not enough reason to keep her locked up while facing trial.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Muehleck said it was “a little strange” she maintains she’s Montague rather than choosing to not address the identity issue.
The father and sister of Montague last week told The Associated Press last week that Julie died shortly after birth and was buried in a cemetery.
Morrison and Primrose – both born more than a decade before Fort and Montague – went to high school and college together and married in 1980 and bought a house in Nacogdoches, Texas, prosecutors said.
They left Texas in the early 1980s, telling at least one family member they were going into the witness protection program, prosecutors said. They resurfaced later as Fort and Montague, telling some people they had changed their identities for financial and legal reasons.
According to a criminal complaint obtained by Hawaii News Now, Primrose was allegedly issued a total of five U.S. passports under the identity of Bobby Fort. Morrison was issued a total of three U.S. passports under the name of Julie Montague, the complaint says.
An unnamed sister of Morrison said the photo on the Hawaii driver’s license with Montague’s name appeared to be her sister though it listed the wrong birth date, Muehleck said.
“We have a situation here where this defendant and her co-defendant, of course, have used false identities to deceive Social Security, the Department of Defense, Hawaii Department of Transportation, the State Department national passport center for 30 years,” Muehleck said. “There’s no verification of who she says she is.”
U.S. Magistrate Judge Rom Trader said he was holding her without bail because he couldn’t trust her to comply with terms and conditions of release if he wasn’t sure of her identity.
“At the core of this case, is some serious, albeit unusual, circumstances where the defendant claims to be an individual other than the person named in the indictment,” Trader said. “I can’t even really say that I have confidence in who Miss Morrison or Miss Montague really, truly is.”
Retired FBI agent Tom Simon told Hawaii News Now the government had likely been tracking the couple for some time and he expects additional evidence will be revealed as the case moves forward.
“The FBI counter-intelligence agents are very smart and very thorough,” he told the station. “They’re not going to make a case with this impact based on someone playing dress-up at a party.”