Monterey Institute instructor's credentials subject of FBI fraud investigation
The FBI and the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office in Portland, Ore., have opened a fraud investigation of Bill Hillar, a college instructor and professional speaker whose claims to be a high-ranking military officer and terrorism expert are being challenged.
Lt. Jose Martinez of the sheriff's office said Tuesday that “We have assigned an investigator and we have joined the investigation [of Hillar] with the FBI,” he said.
Hillar had been scheduled earlier this month to be a keynote speaker at a University of Portland conference on human trafficking but did not show up, according to the school.
Along with frequent speeches to law enforcement groups across the country, Hillar has taught workshops on human trafficking and terrorism at the Monterey Institute of International Studies twice a year since 2005, most recently last month. Students at the institute recently challenged what Hillar said were his credentials as a retired colonel in U.S. Army Special Forces who had earned a doctorate from the University of Oregon.
The Monterey school this week said it could not confirm Hillar’s resume and had severed ties with the instructor. The school also publicly apologized for not verifying Hillar's credentials before hiring him.
FBI spokesmen said Tuesday that their policy was not to discuss any ongoing investigations.
In his classes and speeches, Hillar presented himself as the inspiration for the lead character in the 2008 film “Taken,” starring Liam Neeson as a former CIA operative whose daughter is kidnapped by men who want to enslave her. In numerous interviews about the movie, its director and writers never mentioned Hillar.
Deputy Keith Bickford, who heads the human trafficking unit of the Multnomah sheriff’s agency and is helping in the investigation, said he had heard Hillar speak twice at conferences and emotionally recount the supposed kidnapping and murder of his daughter.
“The story that he told was very sad and he did a very good job in making everybody feel horrible,” said Bickford, who did not initially suspect Hillar’s credentials. “If he is a fraud, he’s hurt a lot of people and taken advantage of a horrible, horrible crime," he said, referring to trafficking.
Hillar could not be reached for comment at the phone number and e-mail address he listed on a syllabus for his Monterey Institute class.
-- Larry Gordon