New York Air National Guardsman accused of impersonating CIA agent to impress woman

Staff Sgt. Ryan Houghtalen, who is currently a sensor operator on the MQ-9 Reaper with the 174th Attack Wing, was charged by New York state police with misdemeanor criminal impersonation for pretending to be a CIA agent. He was arrested Monday, Feb. 18, 2019 and spent a day in jail before being released.


By CHRIS LIBONATI | Syracuse Media Group | Published: February 19, 2019

CICERO, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) — A New York man who police have accused of impersonating a CIA agent to impress a woman works for the New York Air National Guard as a drone camera operator, according to a New York Air National Guard spokesman and an Air Force website.

Staff Sgt. Ryan R. Houghtalen, 25, was charged with second-degree impersonation of a public servant, a misdemeanor, according to court records.

After showing the woman a fake CIA ID, Houghtalen told the woman how he was currently targeted by terrorists.

“He was telling her his job as a CIA agent is very dangerous,” said New York State Police spokesman Jack Keller. “He was hoping to use that information to start a relationship with her.”

Houghtalen told the woman he met at church that, because he was a CIA agent, both he and her were targets of ISIS, according to court documents.

“She became nervous and upset because he convinced her her life may be in danger," said Keller.

An order of protection was issued ordering Houghtalen to stay away from her.

Houghtalen enlisted with the NY National Guard in January 2012 and is currently a staff sergeant with the 174th Attack Wing, based at Syracuse Hancock International Airport, said Eric Durr, a guard spokesman.

Houghtalen serves as an MQ-9 reaper sensor operator, Durr said. He said could not comment on a sensor operator’s responsibilities.

A sensor operator runs the camera on a drone, according to the Air Force’s description of the website.

The 174th Attack Wing uses the base to pilot the MQ-9 Reaper drones on combat and surveillance missions overseas. The base is also a maintenance and training facility for the squadron of drones. It was the first Air National Guard base to operate the drones.

Sensor operators do not have to have prior flight experience, must complete a background check, go through approximately 10 weeks of basic military training and must be between 17 and 39 years old, according to a description of the job on the Air Force’s website.

“Utilizing state-of-the-art equipment, these highly trained experts perform surveillance and reconnaissance and provide close air support and real-time battle damage assessment, playing a vital role in ensuring our missions succeed,” a description of the job reads on the Air Force website.

Though Durr could not speak specifically about Houghtalen’s case, Durr said a guard member convicted of a crime in civilian court can lead to punishment by the guard. Durr said, among other possible punishments, a person could be fined or a person’s rank reduced.

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