Monday, March 2, 2015

Exhibit 14 – L - ARTICLE – Chicago Tribune - A Pro Con.doc

Exhibit 14 – L - ARTICLE – Chicago Tribune - A Pro Con.doc

Chicago Tribune

A Pro Con

With A Uniform And A Line, Gunther Russbacher Eased His Way Into The Confidence Of Military And Law Enforcement Officials

March 17, 1992|By Michael Tackett.

ST. CHARLES, MO. — He carried himself with the imperious bearing of a military officer. He talked like a man who humbled enlisted men for sport. Gunther Russbacher looked the part of a Navy captain when his Learjet landed at Crow`s Landing Naval Air Station in California in the summer of 1990.
When asked to log his phone calls, he signed ``Capt. Gunther Russbacher.`` Forty minutes after landing, he was in the air again.
A few days later, wearing a Navy captain`s white uniform, he drove to Castle Air Force base, an arm of the Strategic Air Command, in Atwater, Calif., bluffed his way past the guard and secured VIP lodging.
No one tried to stop him at either base-even though the insignia on his uniform were upside down.
It has been a long run for Gunther Karl Russbacher, 47, an Austrian citizen-apparently-who has lived a life of intrigue, deception and crime and served little time for it. What sets the balding, steely-eyed Russbacher apart from run-of-the-mill con men is the ease with which he gained access to guarded military facilities and gained the confidence of law enforcement officials.
It finally came crashing down on him last month in a St. Charles County, Mo., courtroom when his probation was revoked and he was sentenced to 21 years in prison for one of the lesser of his masterful cons: stealing money from people while posing as a stockbroker.
He also has posed as an Army captain, an Air Force officer, an Air France pilot and a federal prosecutor. And these are merely the scams that authorities have caught him doing during the last three decades.
In addition to talking his way onto military bases, he apparently has persuaded government workers to give him blank vouchers, then passed himself off as a secret agent with the authority to charter Learjets. He has convinced the FBI he was a valuable informant, and he once faked a heart attack at the Immigration and Naturalization Service office in St. Louis when he feared deportation.
As he was being sentenced, his wife, Raye, insisted that Russbacher is actually a deep-cover CIA operative whom the government is trying to suppress because he piloted a flight that carried George Bush to meet with Iranians in 1980 to delay release of the U.S. hostages in Tehran-the so-called October Surprise.
Raye Russbacher, who has written a proposal for a tell-all book called
``I Call It Treason,`` has absolute confidence in her husband. She testified in court that Russbacher introduced her to former CIA Director William Webster at Offut Air Force Base in Nebraska, another of the military facilities where Russbacher gained access and slept in a bed reserved for VIPs.
He also has used a variety of names over the years, including that of Bobby Ray Inman, a retired admiral who was former head of the super-secret National Security Agency and deputy director of the CIA.
Investigators say Russbacher is brilliant, cunning, engaging and persistent. They say he is adept at taking public facts and marketing them as original information, which he spins into tales of intrigue and suspense that sound just authoritative enough to be credible. It`s almost uncanny, they say, how he can pick out a topic that interests law enforcement agents, such as organized crime or drug trafficking, and pass himself off as an expert.
All this may explain why prison officials denied requests to arrange an interview with Russbacher himself.
``He`s polished. He`s smooth,`` said one FBI agent who has tracked him for three years. ``He can give you the impression that he can do you a lot of good.``
Contradictions about him abound, beginning with his birth. When asked for his birthdate, both the FBI and the INS replied, ``He has several.``
Authorities believe he was born in Salzburg, Austria, either on July 1, 1944, or on Jan. 22, 1945. He has told authorities his mother married a U.S. serviceman after World War II.
He apparently moved to the U.S. when he was about 12. He lived in Oklahoma for a time, and his first recorded brush with the police, according to the FBI, was on Sept. 18, 1961, when he was charged with disorderly conduct and writing bad checks. The charges were dismissed. Records indicated he also was investigated for impersonating an Air Force officer.
The next month, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was assigned to Ft. Carson, Colo. On Aug. 15, 1962, after being reported AWOL, he was charged with impersonating an officer by wearing a captain`s uniform and was sentenced to two months` hard labor.
By October of that year, he was AWOL again. He left the Army on Oct. 1, 1963. Just four months later, he was sentenced to one year in an Oklahoma state prison for writing bad checks, and on Nov. 21, 1965, he was charged with trying to impersonate a U.S. marshal in Dallas. That charge was dismissed.
Back in jail
On Dec. 3, 1973, he was sentenced in New Orleans in connection with impersonating an Air Force major and was placed on probation. Within two months, he had violated the terms of his probation and was returned to jail.
Apparently he served little, if any, time in New Orleans: on May 18, 1974, he was sentenced to five years in prison in Texarkana, Texas, on charges of securities fraud and impersonation.
After his Texas prison term, he moved to Missouri and, on Oct. 5, 1986, was charged with stealing by deception, violating his probation. He was sent to a federal prison in Minnesota, according to the FBI.
On his release, he returned to Missouri and opened a firm called National Brokerage Co. in St. Charles. The company`s letterhead listed him as chairman, using the alias Emery Peden, and said he held an MBA degree.
During this period, Russbacher started calling the St. Louis FBI office, telling them he had valuable information.
Russbacher said he would provide information about drug trafficking if the FBI helped him with some immigration problems. The FBI acknowledges paying him as an informant for a short time, but said it did nothing to help him with the INS. Payment stopped when agents determined that his information was useless.
He also successfully impersonated a commercial airline pilot, at least twice, in the summer of 1986. Wearing an Air France pilot`s uniform, and using a homemade identification card, Russbacher persuaded Trans World Airlines captains to approve him as an additional crew member, allowing him to fly in the cockpit.
He was arrested trying to pull the same stunt on a Southwest Airlines flight.
Philip Groenweghe, a St. Charles County assistant state`s attorney, said that in his work as a stockbroker, Russbacher bilked clients out of thousands of dollars for services he never provided. He was found guilty in 1990 and sentenced to 21 years in prison, but he was placed on probation and ordered to pay restitution. The money would come, he told the court, from a $150,000 contract to write a screenplay about his life story.
VIP treatment
Then, according to the public record, his odyssey took its most dramatic turn.
With his wife, Russbacher drove to the gates of Offut Air Force base, headquarters of the Strategic Air Command, on July 19, 1990.
Russbacher, posing as a Navy captain, had called ahead to make a reservation. He and his wife were given two keys to Room 3208 in the VIP headquarters. He also obtained a visitor`s pass and passes for his car. They stayed four nights.
His wife testified (her testimony later was stricken by the judge in St. Charles as irrelevant) that she and her husband talked with then-CIA Director William Webster at the officers` club. Her story has never been corroborated, and a spokesman at Offut said there is no record of Webster visiting the base. From Offut they traveled to Reno, where Russbacher picked up a military uniform from a surplus store. He also procured blank government vouchers from the federal Bureau of Land Management office there, which he later used to contract for charter service on the Learjets.
``They just handed them over to him,`` said Special Agent Terry Scott of the FBI`s Sacramento office.
According to relatives of Raye Russbacher, who has not been charged with any wrongdoing, the couple came to visit them in California`s Central Valley, but because of a family problem, they needed to leave quickly for Seattle.
As relative Carole Barry recalls it, Russbacher said he could command a plane at once-and he did, convincing a charter service that he was a federal prosecutor on a secret mission.
On July 27, 1990, Russbacher, again in a Learjet, arrived at Crow`s Landing Naval Air Station near the home of his wife`s relatives. Apparently, his only interest in landing there was that it was the closest airfield. Lt. Cmdr. William Carpenter, who was not on the base at the time, said Russbacher appeared to be flying legitimately in a government-contract plane. Lower-level officers did not confront him.
``If you realize you are dealing with a captain,`` he said, ``it`s so many grades removed, it would be like asking a congressman for ID. (But) they probably should have.``
On July 30, he drove to the gates of Castle Air Force Base, wearing a Navy captain`s whites, with a military decal on his car. He and his wife were issued keys for VIP quarters.
``He claimed to be a Navy captain,`` said Lt. Todd Vician, a public affairs officer at Castle, but his insignia were on upside-down.
Meanwhile, the FBI`s Scott, with help from Barry and other relatives, had pieced together at least a portion of Russbacher`s remarkable travels.
On July 31, in the VIP room at Castle, Scott arrested Russbacher on charges of impersonating a federal prosecutor. Russbacher was sentenced to 15 to 20 months in federal prison.
``They (the Air Force) realized it was pretty lax of them because of not wanting to ruffle feathers,`` Scott said.
After his federal prison term, Russbacher was returned to St. Charles. His probation finally was revoked and he was committed to the Missouri prison system for 21 years.
A CIA connection?
To Raye Russbacher, the fact that her husband was twice admitted to secure military installations merely bolsters her story that he was a deep cover CIA officer whose deeds were so politically combustible that he had to be completely discredited.
``The only way people can dismiss it is to say that we are absolute liars,`` Raye Russbacher said.
Is he CIA?
David Whipple, executive director of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, says: ``It`s not a bad cover, because it`s very difficult to verify. If you say you are CIA and the CIA says nothing, it rather sustains the legend.`` However, he said he didn`t recognize Russbacher`s name.
Harry Reeves of the Naval Investigative Service calls it ``absolutely ludicrous.``
The FBI`s Scott says: ``He`s a con man from the word go.``
Says Groenweghe, the prosecutor: ``I can`t prove or disprove his involvement with the CIA. (But) I would be amazed the CIA would use someone with his record and psychological profile. You can`t believe anything he tells you. He`s a liar.``

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