CHICAGO — A man was indicted today for fraud on charges that he ripped off a Crystal Lake, Ill. charity by posing as a Navy SEAL who could rescue aid workers kidnapped in Somalia, authorities said.
William Burley, 34, of Yucaipa, Calif., was indicted by a grand jury in Rockford for wire fraud for allegedly taking $30,000 from International Aid Services – USA, Inc., based in Crystal Lake, the U.S. Attorney’s office announced.
In July 2012, the three workers with IAS were kidnapped in northern Somalia, and a fourth worker was shot but survived and escaped, officials said. Burley was hired by the charity to travel to Somalia to seek the release of the hostages after claiming – falsely, authorities allege – that he was a highly-decorated U.S. Navy SEAL who had been a law enforcement officer and a consultant for the Navy and Department of Defense, the federal indictment alleged.
Douglas Mann, president of U.S. arm of IAS, a non-profit Christian aid group that provides clean water in Africa, said Burley providing seemingly legitimate documents and references, and was sent to Somalia briefly about a month after the kidnappings to try to find the workers, but provided little help.
When company officials began checking further into his background, they contacted Don Shipley, well-known for exposing SEAL impersonators, who confronted Burley about the alleged discrepancies in his credentials, Mann said. Charity officials notified the FBI shortly after in the fall 2012, Mann said.
Burley was being held without bond in a California jail after being arrested March 1 on unrelated state charges, according to federal officials and county records. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years for each of the three counts against him, officials said.
Charity officials now have other representatives trying to free the hostages, Mann said, but are frustrated that they have gotten little help.
“The biggest travesty was it wasn’t just somebody tricking you, but there are people’s lives in the balance,” Mann said. “He did a pretty awful thing, and it’s good he'll have to pay accounts for that.”