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Sunday, December 10, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Hawaii couple found guilty of stealing identities of dead babies

While initial media reports suggested the couple were Russian spies, that narrative melted away as the trial approached.

(CN) — A federal jury convicted a Hawaii couple Monday on five criminal counts, including passport application fraud and aggravated identity theft, for stealing the identities of dead babies and using them for decades.

Walter Glenn Primose lived under the name of Bobby Edward Fort, a baby boy that died more than half a century ago. Primrose's wife, Gwynne Darle Morrison, lived under the name of Julie Lyn Montague. Both used the names for more than 30 years before being arrested. Primrose used his younger identity to join the Coast Guard, in 1993, at age 39 — too old to legally enlist. He served in the Coast Guard for more than 20 years before retiring and taking a job as a defense contractor, for which he received a security clearance.

Early media reports speculated the couple, who met in high school in Texas, were Russian spies. The story was bolstered by Polaroid photos, unearthed by federal investigators, of the couple wearing what appeared to be KGB uniforms. But the couple's lawyers said the photographs were just for fun. Eventually, the Russian spy narrative melted away. At trial, prosecutors said that the couple changed their identities to get out from under a substantial debt. The couple argued that their crimes were "victimless."

Following a five-day trial, the jury deliberated for just two hours before reaching unanimous verdicts on all charges. The convicted couple faces a maximum of 10 years in prison for making false statements in the application and use of a passport. Aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory two-year term, and the conspiracy charges carry a maximum of five years.

In addition to passports, Primrose and Morrison also obtained driver's licenses, Social Security numbers and marriage licenses using their false names. Most recently, they had been living in Kapolei, a planned community on the island of Oahu.

In an earlier hearing, prosecutors revealed Morrison's sister had identified her to federal agents. Morrison had applied for bail, but that request was denied by Judge Rom Trader, who said at the time, "I can’t even really say that I have confidence in who Miss Morrison or Miss Montague really truly is."

As for Primrose, he went through four different lawyers throughout the case, at times representing himself. He refused to submit to a cheek swab DNA test at least three times this year.

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Categories / Criminal

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