Former counterterrorism instructor charged with fraud, lying about credentials
A former part-time anti-terrorism instructor at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and other schools was arrested Tuesday in Maryland on mail fraud charges for allegedly lying about his academic credentials and military experience.
William G. Hillar, who claimed to have been a retired colonel in the U.S. Army's Special Forces with a Ph.D. and many overseas adventures, "was living a lie and basing his entire career on experience he did not have and credentials that he did not earn," Baltimore-based U.S. Atty. Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement. In fact, Hillar, who served in the Coast Guard reserves, was never trained in counter-terrorism and does not have a doctorate from the University of Oregon as he claimed, Rosenstein said.
The investigation into Hillar’s background and activities began last fall after students at the Monterey Institute and special forces veterans began to raise questions about Hillar’s part-time workshops on human trafficking and terrorism and what seemed to be his tendency to borrow material from real experts. Hillar also had taught at other schools and served as a professional speaker to law enforcement and human rights groups, often claiming that the 2008 action movie "Taken," starring Liam Neeson, was based on his life and his daughter's alleged kidnapping and murder.
The FBI estimates that Hillar, who lived in Maryland, has been paid more than $100,000 for his lectures by a variety of schools and law enforcement agencies over the last decade. Hillar, 66, remained in custody Tuesday after he was unable to meet the $50,000 bond and other conditions set by a federal judge, officials said. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
Among his clients was the Federal Executive Board of Greater Los Angeles, which coordinates emergency planning for federal agencies, and the California Fire Chiefs Assn.
Hillar led 12 workshops of 15 hours each over the past five years at the Monterey Institute, which is part of Middlebury College and specializes in language and foreign affairs graduate programs. The school cut ties with him in November after he was asked to provide proof of his credentials and did not do so, officials said. Up to that point, he had not been required to undergo a background check because he was a part-time contractor, not a regular employee. The institute has since changed that policy.
"We were glad to cooperate with law enforcement and that Mr. Hillar is going to be held accountable for his actions," said Jason Warburg, spokesman for the Monterey Institute.
Monterey Institute President Sunder Ramaswamy said in a statement Tuesday that the school is focusing "on taking positive steps moving forward -- tightening our policies, addressing the concerns of our students and alumni, and cooperating with law enforcement and similarly affected institutions and organizations."
-- Larry Gordon