A convicted felon is reportedly facing gun charges in Nevada after setting up a military-style training school and a security firm on the strength of a long-running and widely disseminated lie that he was a decorated Navy SEAL.
ABC News reports A.J. Dicken, 57, parlayed such lies into nearly a million dollars in financial backing from unsuspecting investors, as well as untallied sums allegedly swindled from the people who went to his Carson City school.
"He can be very charming, very engaging," Dr. Brian Romaneschi, one of Dicken’s principal investors, told ABC News after learning the truth. "He presents a face that kind of draws you in."
Carol Roberts, a real Navy veteran who attended Dicken’s school, and also worked for his ill-fated firm, said: “He wouldn't tell these outrageous stories just right off the bat. He would drop little bits of things that are plausible. And he would tailor that plausibility story to each person, knowing what they knew."
According to ABC News, Dicken told people for years he was not only a retired Navy SEAL and ex-CIA employee – but a two-time Medal of Honor recipient who fired the fateful bullet that killed Osama Bin Laden.
He reportedly donned the SEAL insignia on his clothes, enjoyed showing off his service awards, carried bogus military discharge papers and proudly exhibited a commendation he said he once received from Col. Oliver North. The station reports his pretensions to grandiosity even included lies about having worked secret missions in Vietnam – and collaborated on the assassination of Pablo Escobar.
On the strength of his self-defense school’s success, Dicken reportedly set up Global Resources and Logistics – and even won a $500 million-or-so contract with a United Nations-connected organization.
But ABC News reports Dicken’s web of lies unwound quickly during the nascent firm’s first mission to Burundi.
"By the second day, we realized that . . . none of the major players there in Burundi . . . knew who we were, what we were doing there," GRL employee Mike Reynolds told the news agency. "I mean, the stuff he was coming up with is just — it was insane . . . the whole situation there was dangerous."
Roberts – who quit her job to work marketing for Dicken’s new venture -- suspected something was amiss when the supposedly steely Dicken grew panicked after the electricity in their Burundi hotel went off.
“He freaked out, picked up his phone . . . runs into the other room talking to the CIA to have them reposition his satellite so he can make sure that the rebels aren't coming to get him," Roberts told ABC News. "He says, 'alpha, bravo, niner, niner, six, two, the fishing is good in Catalina.'"
After digging, Roberts reportedly contacted retired SEAL Senior Chief Don Shipley, who not only runs a SEAL-style training camp in Virginia, but routinely unmasks SEAL imposters. "I verify, on average, at least 20 fraudulent SEAL claims every day," he told ABC News. "A.J. has a mental problem, and I go after the worst of the worst."
Dicken now reportedly faces gun charges in Nevada on the strength of videos from his Carson City school like this one found on YouTube, showing him firing assault weapons. As a convicted felon, he is not permitted to own a gun.
But Roberts is hoping authorities will file additional charges.
"My payback is going to be my satisfaction," she told ABC News. "I would like to see Dicken . . . arrested and brought to justice. . . . He's a coward and a liar. That's all he has been, and that's all he ever will be."