Col. Michael Douglas McDowell Elaborate Fake Military Career Busted By Fort Worth Police

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A fan sent us the link to the recent arrest of Michael Douglas McDowell, he not only faked his own Military career, but also that of his father when he died. Complete with making fake comments on an online guest book from people like General David Petraeus. He was also married to two different women at the same time.

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Uniform complete with all his fake awards

 

Notice all the awards, including the 3 CIB’s. I guess he did not know that the Infantry Museum keeps a list of all 3 time recipients on their website.

 

Courtesy of Star-Telegram: FORT WORTH — When Brig. Gen. G.B. McDowell passed away on Veterans Day 2011 near Seattle, condolences in an online guest book lifted up his son, Col. Michael Douglas McDowell.

 

Top military officers, like now-retired Maj. Gen. J.T. Furlow, wrote that it was a pleasure to have known Michael McDowell’s father and to have served with Michael McDowell throughout the years.

 

“You are a warrior of valor, a knight of devout courage, and a soldier of the highest order,” Furlow wrote to Michael McDowell. “Your Father is looking down from Heaven proud of the son he raised. Godspeed as you promote up to the very rank your Father held.”

 

Retired Gen. David Petraeus, then director of the Central Intelligence Agency, left his own heartfelt message for McDowell and his fiancee at the time, Christy.

 

“My staff and I are praying for you and Christy and your mother as you go through this time of sorrow and grief over the loss of your father,” Petraeus wrote. “General McDowell was a great man and leader, and I am confident that you will accomplish even more than he did in his lifetime.

 

“Thank you for your devout and faithful service to your country and for being a great man that leads by example.”

Current and former board members of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association, who had come to know “Colonel Mike” over the last decade, chimed in.

 

“It is with deepest regret that I did not have the opportunity to meet this great American and service man. And a great honor to call his son and legacy a friend,” wrote Sgt. Stephen Hall.

 

But the legacy, it turns out, was a lie.

 

McDowell, 57, has never been in the military. Neither had his father — actually an Irving evangelist who died in 1985 while leading a revival in California.

 

The comments from top military officers were fake; investigators believe they were written by McDowell to go along with the phony obituary that he’d created for his father.

Here are some snapshots we took of the fake obituary in case it disappears:

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“I thought the guy did a pretty good job writing that. It’s better than I could have done,” Furlow said in a telephone interview from East Texas.

“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of these people out there that are taking away the glory of people who have done things. … This individual has to be sick to do stuff like this.”

Now, McDowell faces criminal charges as local and federal investigators continue to dig into a ruse that they say spanned at least 15 years and enabled him to fool government agencies and immediate family members.

He was arrested this month in Fort Worth on suspicion of impersonating a public servant and could face charges ranging from forgery and tampering with a government document on the state level to impersonating a military officer on the federal level.

 

Investigators have uncovered evidence that McDowell acquired special access for at least one Fort Worth police association board member to tour the Washington Navy Yard when it was closed to the public.

 

I have one question, how do you persuade someone to give you a Drivers License and Purple Heart plates without proof of Identity! He did so at the Texas DPS, by telling them he was an “Intelligence Officer”.

 

He persuaded Texas Department of Public Safety employees to issue him valid driver’s licenses without his picture or fingerprints because of his work as an “intelligence officer.”

And he obtained Purple Heart recipient license plates.

 

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“We jokingly refer to this as the old Leonardo DiCaprio movie, Catch Me If You Can — the military edition,” said Fort Worth police officer Brad Thompson, lead investigator in the case.

Just how far McDowell’s impersonations reached and what else he may have gained remain under investigation.

“One of the issues that came up from one of our people who was in D.C. was that he met him inside the secure area of the airport, dressed in his uniform, and picked him up in a vehicle with government tags,” Thompson said. “We heard that from multiple people, that he picked them up in vehicles with government tags on them.”

 

McDowell, who police say has acknowledged posing as a military officer, did not respond to several messages from the Star-Telegram seeking comment. His attorney, Charlie Burgess, also did not return repeated phone calls.

 

B.G. “Jug” Burkett, a Vietnam veteran and author of Stolen Valor, estimates that 70 percent of those who invent or embellish military records “do it out of low self-esteem,” motivated by the automatic respect that such distinction can bring. “The general thing he is doing is not uncommon. But how elaborately he has done this, he’s at the top of the heap, obviously,” Burkett said.

 

Something wasn’t right

The unraveling of McDowell’s scam began after an impromptu visit to Police Chief Jeff Halstead in December.

Halstead had met McDowell once before, introduced to the then “colonel” in 2010 by Sgt. Rick Van Houten, then police association president, during a luncheon. McDowell gave the chief a business card that said “Col. Michael McDowell, USA Directorate for Counterintelligence Near/Middle/Far East Operations”

 

Halstead did not initially recognize the man in uniform waiting in the lobby of his office Dec. 28 but invited him in after being reminded by McDowell of their previous introduction. McDowell explained that he’d been promoted to general and was in the area working from Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth and Fort Hood.

He offered to set up a special tour of the White House or the Pentagon the next time the chief was in Washington, D.C., and said he was “happy to help” if the department ever needed him, according to McDowell’s arrest warrant affidavit.

Halstead, who had worked with high-ranking military officers while with the Phoenix Police Department, said he believed that something was amiss. McDowell’s uniform seemed ill-fitting. He smelled heavily of cigarettes. A challenge coin that McDowell presented to prove his military membership came in a case that looked old and worn.

 

Still bothered by the meeting two months later, Halstead asked his special investigations section to check into whether McDowell was an impostor.

‘This guy was a fake’

The Defense Intelligence Agency told officer Thompson that McDowell was not an employee, and other federal agencies confirmed that McDowell hadn’t been in the military at all.

A special agent with the DIA inspector general’s office told Thompson that McDowell was an impostor who had been warned in August about the consequences of impersonating a military officer.

 

That warning came after Flower Mound police became suspicious of McDowell while working a domestic dispute in which he had reported that his wife, Christy, repeatedly hit him with a set of car keys Aug. 5 at an apartment they shared.

Two days after the alleged assault, McDowell told investigators that he didn’t want to pursue charges and that the Army would provide her help.

As proof, he gave the detective a letter on Army and Defense Department letterhead and from a commanding officer in counterintelligence that ordered McDowell to bring his wife to Washington, D.C., for an evaluation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

“There was something that just didn’t sit right,” said Capt. Wess Griffin, a spokesman for Flower Mound police.

McDowell apparently told the feds that he would stop the impersonations.

 

But four months later, the “general” strolled into Halstead’s offfice.

 

Fort Worth police launched a full investigation. On May 2, McDowell was arrested on suspicion of impersonating a public servant. He was released from the Mansfield Jail on May 7 after posting bail.

 

“I knew in my mind within 15 minutes that this guy was a fake, but it took a lengthy investigation to prove it to my heart,” Halstead said. “I have such deep respect for our military. His fraud became very offensive to me.”

McDowell played his character well. Inside his briefcase, he carried files labeled “Top Secret.” He sometimes handcuffed the case to his wrist while in public.

 

Items found in his briefcase

Items found in his briefcase

During meetings, he’d place three cellphones before him. When he couldn’t be reached on his D.C. phone number, his voice mail message informed callers that someone from the command staff would get back to them.

 

Once, an officer overheard him talking top-secret military matters on his cellphone.

 

“I’m not on a secure line and that information is back in the office, but off the top of my head, I’m thinking North Korea or Syria,” McDowell was heard telling the caller.

 

He later admitted that no one was on the other end of the line, Fort Worth Detective Mike Carroll said.

 

In a May 2 search of his north Fort Worth home, police seized three military uniforms — the dress uniform he’d worn while meeting with Halstead in December and two field uniforms. The medals and ribbons adorning his uniform included the Distinguished Service Cross.

 

Police took away bags of apparent military records and found scores of letters to and from women in which he used a fake military rank.

 

       Purple Heart Tag

Purple Heart Tag

“He had some correspondence with [U.S. Sen.] Kay Bailey Hutchison’s office back when she was still in office,” Thompson said. “… We do know that he represented himself as a military officer to her office to obtain passes for the White House.”

 

The oldest documents uncovered were a card and an envelope, addressed to “Maj. McDowell” and mailed to a Hurst post office box in 1998.

 

McDowell’s(Click for page) Facebook page, in an area viewable only by friends, reads like an impressive résumé, beginning with his 1974 graduation from Irving High School and listing military schools and military jobs, ranging from the Army Ranger School to the National War College.

 

Inquiries by the Star-Telegram found that only the part about high school is true.

 

“I think, by and large, he sold it to people who had never been around the military much,” Thompson said. “If he was interacting with real military, he would almost always seem to interact with a different branch.”

 

McDowell’s real employment history is far less impressive.

He was a licensed peace officer for a short time in the late 1970s and early ’80s, working less than two years for the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department and only two months for the Highland Village Police Department, documents show.

He’d also worked as a car salesman, a volleyball referee and a security guard, police say.

He could walk the walk’

Word of the ruse shocked McDowell’s friends, several of them Fort Worth police officers.

There just never was really anything that would make you suspicious, even for us,” said retired Sgt. Jon Fahrenthold, a former Irving High classmate with whom McDowell had reconnected in the past 10 years.

“He had done his research, and he could walk the walk and talk the talk.”

In high school, McDowell was known as “Doug” — a tall kid with curly hair who sang in the a cappella choir and had a beautiful tenor voice.

 

McDowell told Fahrenthold that he now went by “Mike” because of his military profession.

“He said it just sounded more macho, a guy thing,” Fahrenthold said.

Van Houten met McDowell about seven years ago through another police association board member. He would introduce McDowell to Hall two years later while board members were in Washington for National Police Week and, eventually, to Halstead, at the 2010 luncheon.

“I wouldn’t have introduced him to the chief had I not believed him and thought he was a friend,” Van Houten said.

“I was completely fooled by it.”

Many of those interviewed by the Star-Telegram said McDowell liked to offer things and once coördinated a White House tour for police association board members.

On the day of the tour, a uniformed McDowell met the Fort Worth officers outside the White House but didn’t accompany them in.

“I was very unimpressed with the tour,” Van Houten said. “It was just your standard White House tour that anybody can do.” The officers say they were disgusted upon learning that McDowell was not who he said he was.

 

“It’s one thing to impersonate somebody you’re not,” Van Houten said. “But to impersonate anyone in the military, especially with everything the military has gone through over the past 10 years — to claim to be part of that when he clearly isn’t, it’s shameful.”

 

‘He’s in like a fantasy world’

 

McDowell had other secrets, too, including being married to two women for the past year and a half.One believed that he was a military officer. The other had no clue. McDowell and his first wife, Karen, married on Dec. 7, 1979, and have two grown daughters.

 

The couple separated in May 2011, just seven months before McDowell married his second wife, Christy, at a Las Vegas chapel on Christmas Eve. Reached at her north Fort Worth apartment last week, Karen McDowell said she believed that Christy was just a girlfriend of McDowell’s and didn’t know that the two had married. She said she filed for divorce May 10 after learning about McDowell’s arrest.

 

Karen McDowell said she doesn’t believe that Michael McDowell would impersonate a military officer. Although he had uniforms and even Purple Heart license plates, she said, she believes that he was just fascinated by the military.

 

“He’s a nice guy,” Karen McDowell said. “… Somebody’s blowing this up to what it isn’t. From what I’ve known of him, he’s too smart to do anything crazy like that.”

 

Even if he has done what he’s accused of, Karen McDowell said, it didn’t hurt anyone. “He’s in like a fantasy world, I think,” she said. It was a fantasy world that McDowell apparently wanted to keep alive even after death.

Police recovered a letter he wrote to Karen McDowell and his two daughters in 2009, to be opened when he died. In it, he confided about his double life as a military intelligence officer whose mission was to pose as a civilian and gather information vital to national security. He wrote that the government had staged an accident at a jewelry store in 1993 to provide income for his work.

 

Until this month, Christy McDowell believed that her husband was a military officer and that Karen McDowell was his ex-wife. In a message to the Star-Telegram, Christy McDowell said learning the truth behind her husband and marriage has plunged her into depression. She said she sensed that something wasn’t right all along.

 

“He kept telling me that I was crazy but time and time again I found things wrong, that didn’t make sense,” she wrote. “He had lied to me so much that I really thought I was crazy.”

 

A relative, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation, said she suspects that McDowell’s jealousy of his half brother might have prompted the military ruse.

Gerald “Jerry” McDowell was a Marine captain who’d been injured in Vietnam and received a Purple Heart. He died in 1999 at age 55. “The jealousy just kept growing and growing and growing until it exploded into what you have now,” she said.

 

So for over 15 years he impersonated an Officer, married multiple times, and no telling how much he gained because of this impersonation. So to those who say Stolen Valor does not hurt anyone, this is the perfect example of how it does.

 

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Mug Shot

 

Below are a few more pictures of this phony, we will keep you update on the pending charges.

UPDATE: 20140205

Michael Mcdowell has pleaded guilty to the charges against him, impersonating a public servant and BIgamy. He was sentenced to 5 years probation on both counts.

According to the Star-Telegram:

FORT WORTH — A Fort Worth man who wove an elaborate web of lies, convincing friends, family and even some government officials that he was a brigadier general in the Army, fessed up to his ruse Tuesday, pleading guilty to impersonating a public servant.

Michael Douglas McDowell, 57, also pleaded guilty to bigamy, stemming from his December 2011 marriage to Christy McDowell while still married to his estranged wife, Karen, the mother of his two grown children.

He was sentenced to five years deferred adjudication probation in each case.

“For the better part of 15 years, this defendant perfected the art of stolen valor,” said Tarrant County assistant District Attorney Joshua Ross. “The lengths to which he was willing to go were prolific; including wearing an officer’s uniform and medals, as well as obtaining purple heart license plates, none of which was earned. He even wore a uniform to his marriage to a woman who believed him to be a military officer, and who was not aware of his other marriage.

“Considering those in uniform rarely ask for anything more than an occasional ‘thank you,’ Michael McDowell’s actions are profoundly offensive,” Ross added

According to court documents he also convinced the Texas Department of Public Safety to issue him a driver’s license with no photo or fingerprints because of his work as an Intelligence Officer. It seems he got off pretty easy, as all he got after this fifteen year ruse was probation.
Below are some photo’s of items used as evidence against him:
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What are your thoughts?
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42 comments on “Col. Michael Douglas McDowell Elaborate Fake Military Career Busted By Fort Worth Police
  1. I like how he has the Liberation of Kuwait Medals from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, but no Southwest Asia Service Medal. You should have the US Campaign Medal before you get the foreign award, that’s a dead giveaway…

    • Not only that, he wears a Multinational Force Observers Medal right next to his (ahem) Distinguished Service Cross. That ribbon should be near the bottom. I guess he did not know that the AR 670-1 is public knowledge and easily accessible on the internet. I also like how he managed to get TWO Bronze Stars but only somehow managed to receive ONE ARCOM and ONE AAM. They gave out AAMs like candy.

      • or he just didn’t read the AR and thats why he screwed up on ribbon placement. I noticed that MFO ribbon right away also. I was there in 82 and 83 82nd Aviation Bn. As for the other stuff it doesn’t matter because its all fake anyway

  2. Army officers are not awarded the Good Conduct Medal. If an officer had prior service as an enlisted\NCO then they may wear it if awarded. This bozo was wearing what appears to be a fourth award.

    • Good catch ! I know several first term soldiers and airmen who jumped to the officer side and had one Good Conduct Medal, but no one with multiple Good Conduct Medals…

      • Glad they caught him. I have two GCM one from active duty with the Air Force then one the the Army NG, after that I went from SSG to 2 LT, after that you were required to have good conduct.

  3. I actually saw those plates on a car and commented to my wife about them being odd, stating USASOC seemed odd to me. Glad they got this dude, I am ashamed though that he comes from my local area.

    • Absolutely. I saw these plates a few months back and wondered the exact same thing. It was rather confusing to me. Nobody I ever knew who worked in USASOC ever advertised it on their POV. USASOC seems like a noob thing to put on a license plate, but it was a purple heart plate, so I deliberately moved up along side the car to get a look at the driver and saw this old guy. I dismissed it afterwards. It was only a matter of time before someone called his bluff.

  4. Damn elaborate ruse. The two areas that concern me most or “more than others” is the “Interpol” ID Badge and numerous reports of him driving and or picking up people in a vehicle with Government Plates, it would seem to me those two issues could trigger a significant Criminal indictment.

    My gut says anyone willing to put THIS MUCH effort into a persona or impersonation is doing it for more than just “mental masturbation”. I will be interesting to see what comes out of the woodwork but I wouldn’t be surprised of financial gains or even another wife!

    Thanks to the men who sniffed this out and you at Stolen Valor for keeping up on these things – I believe a public flogging is in order, my guess is that 15 minutes of “Fame” would offer a significant deterrent to others so inclined to “Be All That You Weren’t”.

  5. The first thing I look for is a CIB. When I saw it had two stars, I knew immediately he was what we call in Special Forces a “Poser”. It’s truly amazing that he wasn’t figured out a long, LONG time ago. Somebody should have punched his lights for him, this POS.

    SGM Robert C. Zornes (RET)
    US Army Special Forces

  6. Wouldn’t it be nice if states only issued “Stolen Valor” plates to anyone who has been convicted of false impersonations like the ones exposed here? If you were on the database as having done this, then the only plates these assbags would be eligible for would be ones which said STOLEN VALOR on them if the car was registered in their name.

    • The red wing are given in friendship jump exchanges with the US and other foreign countries, as a “US service member” he would only be able to wear the red wings, as he had not been a member of the regiment (as he’s American) and would therefore not qualify for the white……

  7. As the eldest daughter of a highly decorated Marine, the actions by this individual tarnish every person that has ever served admirably and with honor. What a disgrace as a human being this man is! My heart breaks for the family and the people directly affected by his despicable actions and conduct. As far as I’m concerned, probation isn’t enough. Prison would have been much better! Scumbag!

  8. Nothing on this Earth could make me do something like this. As a SSG getting MRB’d and still have not been able to fufill my dreams of becoming a Ranger or even something simple like earning AA wings, I would still never do anything like this. Makes me sick to my stomach that assholes like this are still out there. Hell I bet a lot of them are still in the service and embellish thier careers or records. Now I want to do those things even more just to prove that I actually DID do it. Thanks for keeping a watchful eye out ad exposing these awful people.

  9. Way to many indicators of jackassery here… three CIB’s is an obvious one, anyone else catch all of the hash marks on his left sleeve? O’s don’t wear them, only enlisted and NCO’s. He has an Army Distinguished Service Medal ribbon on the second row…after his MFO ribbon? Also unusual to see someone who’s seen “that much action” wearing the combat service badge for SOCJFCOM. Branch insignia on GO’s only goes if they’re the chief of the Branch, like the Chief of Infantry, Artillery, etc… besides if he was a SOF dude, shouldn’t he be wearing crossed arrows(?)… he probably had a story for that too.

  10. This disgusting poser deserves to be in Leavenworth making little rocks out of big ones. I’m retired Navy, so don’t know the Army ribbons and decorations at all, but the lack of a shave, sloppy placement of the ribbons and emblems, and general disheveled look should’ve been dead give away. I was stationed with a SEAL Team for one of my tours. It was rare that I ever saw them not clean shaven, but you’d better believe if they were in a regular uniform they were. My Great Uncle is a purple heart recipient from WWll. I know he had to provide proof to get his license plate. Maybe the SC DMV is just more conscientious though. What a weasel and to only end up with probation. This makes me sick!!!! I feel badly for his two wives, but even more so for his children. How embarrassing to find out your father is a fraud and made your grandfather out to be a fraud.

  11. Wait, THE Christy McDowell? Is this his second wife? If so, I’m just going to say this. I’m definitely not trying to be anything other than genuine in saying, I’m so sorry you were put in this position. It has to be hard to go through this in such a public way. Prayers to you for strength Ma’am.

  12. I was a non-combat troopie in Vietnam. I was in a signal bn. in a base camp. It took me a long time to find a baseball cap with the signal corps along with the “Vietnam veteran” writing because it shows everyone that I was never in combat. I was against the war, but have the highest respect for those men in combat who were out in the field protecting me. I bow down to all those who were in combat.

  13. Wow, he really went to a lot of trouble. Wearing a general officer uniform with crossed rifles? Carrying briefcase with hand cuff? Top secret or higher would required special traveling arrangements, but no hand cuff.

    He didn’t get nothing out of his act, but jail time. I don’t get it.

  14. Throw this poser scumbag to the wolves and may God have mercy on his soul because I certainly won’t if I meet up with him.

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