Man Posing as a Highly Decorated Navy Seal Sentenced to Federal Prison
ROCKFORD — A California man claiming to have been a Navy SEAL was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Philip G. Reinhard to federal prison for defrauding non-profit organizations.
WILLIAM J. BURLEY, 36, formerly of Yucaipa, Calif., was sentenced to three years in federal prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release for defrauding International Aid Services – USA Inc. (IAS America), a non-profit organization located in Crystal Lake, and International Aid Services (IAS International), a non-profit organization based in Stockholm, Sweden. Burley was also ordered to pay full restitution of $32,454 to IAS America. Burley pleaded guilty on Aug. 30, 2016, to wire fraud.
In his written plea agreement, Burley admitted that between July 17, 2012, and Oct. 8, 2012, he devised a scheme to defraud IAS America and IAS International. The two non-profit organizations provided relief to, and assistance in, the economic development of poverty-stricken individuals in Africa. On July 11, 2012, while doing humanitarian work, four IAS International workers were ambushed and assaulted in Somalia. Three of the workers, including a woman, were kidnapped. The fourth worker was shot and left behind.
Burley approached IAS International and offered to assist it in negotiating with the Somali captors for the release of the employees and, if necessary, to assist in the rescue of the captives. In so doing, Burley claimed to have been a former Navy SEAL and to have received numerous citations while in the Navy, including a Presidential Unit Citation, an Afghanistan Campaign Medal, a Silver Lifesavings Medal, and a Global War on Terrorism Medal.
All of those claims were false. The defendant also falsely claimed to have attended the University of Delaware and University of Maryland and to have been a consultant for the Navy, the Department of Defense, and the Department of State.
Burley was able to convince IAS America to pay him $30,000 and to pay for his travel expenses to Kenya. At Burley’s request, IAS America also paid for another individual to fly to Kenya to assist Burley in Burley’s efforts to either negotiate with the Somali pirates or to arrange for a rescue operation. When he was unable to obtain the release of the hostages, Burley returned to the United States. In September 2012 he went to Crystal Lake, where he presented a “rescue plan” for the hostages to IAS America and made additional false representations about his past achievements. When IAS America learned that Burley was not a SEAL, it ended its relationship with him.
The three hostages in Somalia were not released until May 2014.
The sentencing was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Michael J. Anderson, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney John G. McKenzie.