A California man who falsely claimed to be a Navy SEAL to defraud non-profit organizations got sentenced to federal prison this week. The imposter, 36-year-old William J. Burley, was sentenced to three years in prison followed by another three years of supervised release.
Burley is being held responsible for deceiving two non-profit groups; California-based International Aid Services – USA Inc. (IAS America), and Sweden-based International Aid Services (IAS International); in order to get undeserved compensation. The two organizations were involved in negotiating with Somali captors who had kidnapped their humanitarian workers while they were assisting in the economic development of poverty-stricken citizens in Africa in 2012. Burley devised a scheme to get the organizations to hire him in the negotiating and falsified military service in order to get the job.
Burley stated that he was a former Navy SEAL who received a number of citations while serving. He claimed to have earned a Presidential Unit Citation, an Afghanistan Campaign Medal, a Silver Lifesavings Medal, and a Global War on Terrorism Medal. He also said that he was an alumnus of the University of Delaware and the University of Maryland before doing consulting work for the Navy, the Department of Defense, and the State Department. None of his claims were true.
By falsifying a military background and pretending to be a highly decorated SEAL, Burley was able to con IAS America to pay him $30,000 and cover the costs for not only his travel expenses to Africa, but another individual per Burley’s request.
Lacking the necessary skills, Burley was unable to free the hostages he was tasked with negotiating for and was returned back to the United States. After a failed attempt to try to get hired for another “rescue plan,” IAS America learned his claims of military service were bogus and ended their professional relationship.
He was ordered to pay more than $30,000 to IAS in restitution.