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tv   2020  ABC  January 3, 2014 10:00pm-11:01pm PST

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that is a deal. what a dream come true for me. thank you. thank you. thank you so much. it's a pleasure to meet you. [ laughs ] congratulations. [ laughs ] i'm happier about being in business with him. you should be. yeah, he's gonna--he's gonna call me every morning and say, "hey, why don't you get up and do something?" i was able to get a deal with daymond, of all people -- just so lucky. i couldn't have dreamt it any better. it's just absolutely wonderful.
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tonight on 20/20, his crazy lies landed him in court this week. but can you always figure out who is telling the big lie? first, in love and planning their blowout wedding, when the bride to be goes missing. >> we do think she is in danger. >> kidnapped or something more shocking? >> tiffiny was there in the room by herself. >> plus the most decorated navy s.e.a.l. in history, he said he was. >> the stuff he was coming up with was insane. >> he's about to meet someone even tougher. >> so what went wrong? >> i caught it. >> and so do we. 20/20 tracked him down. >> folks in the navy s.e.a.l. community say you're not a commando you're a con artist.
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>> and the high life of a rock star. >> i keep partying. >> the sold out concert, the tour bus. >> he never performed live. >> singing a different tune. the secret of how so many of you are watching on tv. >> the host is buying everything you are saying. >> tonight see if you spot the big lie. >> no. >> yes. >> no. >> yes. >> here now, david muir. >> good evening, happy new year. tonight if one of your new year's resolutions is to be truer to yourself, you're way ahead of the people you're bo to meet here, fooling their colleagues, their lovers, their families, with a big lie. first the woman about to get married kidnapped. even authorities tracking her desperate text message, tonight debra roberts with a twist. something old, something new, something borrowed, something not quite true. reporter: if you were cruising through tiny fletcher oklahoma a few summers ago you
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may have noticed amongst the rolling prairies and homes on the range this startling sight, a billboard about a missing blonde. >> right now, detectives are trying to find 39-year-old tiffiny bray from fletcher. >> reporter: tiffiny bray -- her smiling face peering down in that haunting picture had vanished, and her frantic family was all over the news. >> something's wrong. >> she's a piece to this family, a piece that we have to have back. >> reporter: pleading for information, for anything to help. >> we do feel that she is in danger. she needs to be found. >> reporter: this big mystery on the great plains was served with an extra helping of heartbreak -- tiffiny disappeared just months before her wedding day. her fiance chad maguire feared he'd have to turn wedding plans into funeral arrangements. >> i was worried about her. i was worried that she'd run off the road and had a wreck. i tried calling her several times and it just goes straight to voicemail. >> reporter: chad, a plainspoken, power company worker, fell hard for the petite
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blonde who fit right in to his cap and overalls world. >> we'd go driving around on the back roads. we'd go play in the mud in the jeeps. have a good time. >> reporter: with his sooner-state sweetheart, chad could have easily been living that song by fellow oklahoman carrie underwood. >> now, he's wrapped around her finger. she's the center of his whole world. >> reporter: she seemed to be perfect. >> she cooked. cleaned. kept up with the laundry. reporter: not one for hemming and hawing, this rustic romeo offered his sweetie a heart necklace for valentines day, and a few months later, hopped in his pickup truck with a diamond ring. >> she was hinting around and she said she knew. so i just gave it to her while i was drivin' down the road. here you go! >> reporter: okay, so it wasn't on bent knee, but tiffiny said yes, and the two mosey down to cozumel, mexico to celebrate. >> we went snorkeling. drove around the island, went shopping, looking at sights. >> reporter: back home in oklahoma, wedding plans are in high gear, chad's parents even have a little fun with a gift --
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hinting who'll wear the overalls in the family. >> reporter: it all seems hunky-dory until one morning a few weeks later, when tiffiny puts on a pair of camo shorts, some flip flops and hops into chad's pick up truck to run some errands. >> the last text i heard from her was around noon. she asked what i wanted for lunch. >> reporter: he never gets that lunch order, because tiffiny never returns. >> i was scared -- it -- about that evening. went looking for her, and then i filed a missing person report the next morning. >> this is not like her. she always calls her mother everyday or every other day, regardless of what is going on in her life. >> reporter: not a word from his new fiance for 96 excruciating hours, then a text message sent from her phone that has chad fit to be tied. >> four days later, i got that text saying that she's kidnapped. >> reporter: it reads "need help." somewhere in lawton in dark room. white man. please [ expletive ] help me. not sure i use this again.
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>> when a text message comes in of that nature that takes it to the forefront of the seriousness of what may be going on. richard goss, a no nonsense special agent in charge of the oklahoma state bureau of investigation, doesn't take kindly to the thought of a woman being abducted. >> everything had to go on hold while we addressed this kidnapping. biggest fear, bar none, somebody finding tiffiny bray dead while we're looking for her. >> reporter: friends and family are also frantically searching for the 5'2", 95-pound woman. >> she wouldn't be hard just to snatch up and throw in a van, or something like that. >> reporter: tommy lewis, an old family acquaintance who values friendship as much as his christian faith, is happy to help. how involved were you? >> we spent our time and money searching trying to assist investigators, give them any information we could. >> reporter: as the weeks went on did you start to lose faith?
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>> the longer something like that goes on, the more in your head you're thinking this is not gonna end good. we're out looking for a dead person. >> reporter: and chad has even more to worry about. his fiance has vanished under suspicious circumstances and as the last person to see her alive, suspicion is directed at him. >> they spent quite a bit of time parked down the hill from my house watching me. they thought i've done something to her. >> reporter: investigators even strap him in for a polygraph. >> i had one ask me where the body was. i was nervous about it. he asked me how honest a person i was, i told them about 70 %. >> reporter: tiffiny's family worries about the other 30%. >> her brother in-law and sister were pretty animate, they just knew that chad had killed her. >> reporter: the story tears through town like a twister. and fortunately, the whirlwind coverage leads to the first major break in the case. >> it was brought to the attention of a former employer. looking through a computer that she had access to they had
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discovered some e-mail exchange between tiffiny and a man in palestine, texas. that man is steve thomas, a secret acquaintance tiffiny had met online. steve lives five hours away in palestine, texas, a body shop worker with an unusual hobby -- making medieval armor. investigators are soon hot on his trail. >> the next stop, obviously, is, find the man in texas. >> reporter: they soon track steve's cell phone not to palestine, but 360 miles south to coastal corpus christi. >> the cellular provider was, was right on the money, as far as the location of the phone. >> reporter: that location -- this no-tell motel. still to come, special agent goss barges in and is flabbergasted by the suntanned face he finds. >> tiffiny was there in the room by herself. >> reporter: what happened to tiffiny bray? she'll tell a tale as big as texas -- for the first time -- when we return.
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coming up later, they are all action, these navy s.e.a.l.s, but he was all talk. and none of it was true. >> will he pull out his karate chops on 20/20, later on "the big lie." my dad had a honda... my mom had a honda.... i was coming from a 2007 honda accord. i traded it in for a ford fusion titanium. i, no joke, probably test-drove fifteen different vehicles. i kind of was indifferent toward ford
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20/20 continues. once again, debra roberts. reporter: it's been nearly a month since 39-year-old tiffiny bray disappeared from small town fletcher, oklahoma. her only communication, a text message sent to fiancee chad mcguire saying she was kidnapped. >> okay, amanda. we want to show you tiffiny's picture one more time. if you see her, call police immediately. >> reporter: a massive manhunt is underway, special agent richard goss and his team think tiffiny's secret online friend steve thomas may know something, so they track his cell phone to this motel in corpus christi,
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texas. >> we had to find her, and ensure that she was safe as quickly as we could. >> reporter: so imagine their surprise when they bust into this room and find tiffiny's only injury is a sunburn. >> i would say positively when we walked into the motel room and she was safe and sound. we knew it had all been a hoax. >> reporter: a wild goose chase. turns out tiffiny is no kidnap victim, but a reluctant bride with a bad case of cold feet. she agreed to tell us her story for the first time, explaining that she dreamed of more than cooking and cleaning for chad. >> i mean chad was a nice guy. i just was not happy with my life. >> reporter: so why didn't you just break it off say it was a big mistake? >> i can't answer it. i just felt like i couldn't breathe anymore. >> reporter: and you felt you couldn't say that to your fiancee? >> mm-hmm. >> reporter: so one morning you just woke up. >> no, i actually had thought about it. few days prior to it, and just said, that's it, this is what i'm gonna do. >> reporter: her plan, if you
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can call it that, began that july morning. >> i got up, got ready. i said i'm going to town. >> reporter: instead she takes a detour, a huge one, in chad's truck. she cruises 70 miles up i-44 to an oklahoma city pawn shop and literally sells off her fiance's heart -- his heart necklace that is. how much did you get for the necklace? >> it was only like $60 maybe. >> reporter: chump change. that would barely pay for a tank of gas. so later off goes that $2,500 engagement ring to the pawn shop, too. what's going through your mind as you're driving? >> the whole time i was driving i was shaking. i was so confused. i thought i have this address for steve in texas. that's where i'll go. >> reporter: steve -- that online friend with a passion for medieval attire -- he was dreaming of making a future with his oklahoma princess. and had no idea she wasn't available. this must have been a powerful connection with this guy in
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texas, for you to just drop everything and run to him? >> it was just somewhere to go. it was my escape. it was my way out. >> reporter: you had to be thinking, somebody might find me, spot me. >> i mean, all i was doing was leaving. in my thought it wasn't against the law to take off and leave and not tell anybody where i was going. >> reporter: but what about that desperate text for help? why'd you do that? >> maybe it was me, crying out, somehow. i, i don't know. >> reporter: so it didn't occur the police would get involved. >> no -- i was -- no, i had no idea. >> reporter: the duo headed south to coastal corpus christi to find a fresh start. but their new life is not exactly camelot. the cash-strapped couple check into this low-rent motel where room 206 runs $200 a week. yes, just like garth brooks put it -- >> i've got friends in low places. where the whiskey drowns. >> reporter: what did you do with yourself those days? >> absolutely nothing. once, i think we went out shopping.
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occasionally we'd go to fast food or something like that. >> reporter: it was a far cry from the fancy mexican vacation she'd just taken with her fiance chad. >> reporter: are you feeling bad at all? >> i wasn't in that, that clear state of mind, i guess. i guess you try to block that out somehow. >> reporter: but there' s no blocking the cell phone signal of her texas squire. soon there is someone at the door and it's not room service. >> someone knocked at the door, and it was the osbi. >> reporter: surrounded by unhappy state agents, it time for a reality check. >> i was immediately of course scared. you escape from something and not realize how bad you're hurting everybody around you. so it's actually very selfish. >> this morning they found her in corpus christi with a companion. >> reporter: her companion steve
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wasn't part of the hoax. but tiffiny kept him in the dark. after logging 6500 miles spending 685 manhours and more than $34,000 on the case, inspector goss isn't inclined to forgive. >> when we arrested tiffiny bright, i had no sympathy for her at all. the number one cause of death in law enforcement is traffic accidents. i'll be darned if one of my agents or a law enforcement officer should lose his life for a game. >> reporter: tiffiny is arrested for taking chad's truck and falsely reporting a crime. >> i was happy i wasn't a suspect and i was glad she was found all right. i wasn't too happy. >> reporter: neither was tommy lewis. >> i got a phone call from my best friend, telling me we found tiffiny, and she's alive. and at first i was just angry at her. oh, my god, what was she thinking? how could she do this to us?
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>> reporter: tiffiny's family asked the same question. though they bailed her out after five weeks in jail, relatives kept a tight leash on the absentee bride. >> i was allowed to go to work and go straight home. >> reporter: it sounds like they had trouble trusting you. >> mh-hmm. >> so i just ended up moving out. so no, i don't have a relationship with my family. >> reporter: tiffany was able to cut a deal with local prosecutors -- no more jail time for the charges she faced as long as she pays back the $34,000 spent on her search. >> today an emotional finale to the tiffany bray case is two years in the making. >> reporter: today she's working 60 hour weeks to settle up with the osbi, $560 a month for the next five years. >> i'm very grateful that they did find me because i don't even know to this day where i'd be if they wouldn't have found me. i went to counseling. because the guilt alone will eat at you every single day. >> reporter: suffice to say, the
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wedding was off, but chad's achy breaky heart seems to have mended quickly. >> if they hadn't come and got her stuff, i was gonna have a runaway bride garage sale. and guess what? there's a happy ending to this tangled love story. remember tommy, tiffiny's family friend? well -- >> we just kinda started hanging out more. and enjoying each other's company. i invited her to church, and the relationship kind of blossomed. never forget that history and always use it to guide ourselves in the future. >> reporter: and soon, those church bells were ringing for them! were you worried on the wedding day about whether she was going to show? >> i'd be lying if i said it didn't cross my mind. >> reporter: what was it you found in this relationship that you felt you didn't have in your life before? >> love. never felt like i had that before. >> the question tonight would you have forgiven tiffiny? tweet me use the #20/20 and wait
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until you see what's next. >> coming up, sex, drugs, rock n roll, the guy who wanted to be a rock star so bad, he faked his way into 11 million to do it. >> they wanted to touch me. >> for the very first time, you'll hear from him. are you ready grandma?time, just a second, sweetie. [ female announcer ] we eased your back pain... ♪ ready or not. [ female announcer ] you can be up there. here i come! [ female announcer ] ...down there, around there... and under there for him. tylenol® provides strong pain relief while being gentle on your stomach. but for everything we do, we know you do so much more. tylenol®. save on tylenol®. see this sunday's newspaper for coupons. we're gonna be late. ♪
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it's impossible to know who will be the next beyonce or bieber but this guy had it. the sold out concerts, the tour bus, the slick videos with the hollywood model. but there was a big lie in those lyrics, here's chris connelly. ♪ reporter: as the lead singer for his band lights over paris, robert mawhinney wanted to be a rock star in the worst way. in this, he succeeded. he fulfilled his every rock n roll fantasy. starring in sexy music videos, throwing wild, all-night parties at his luxury dwellings across los angeles.
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including this $10-g's a month riot house in the hollywood hills. >> i have no idea where all the women came from. >> loud party, misdemeanor. hey, if it's not a, [ bleep ] felony, let's keep partying! >> reporter: hitting the road with no expense spared. spraying pricey champagne off the balcony of a penthouse suite. deploying an in-concert money gun. >> he really liked the idea of shooting money into the crowd. >> reporter: even building this one-of-a-kind fabulously appointed $750,000 tour bus. >> it's called the "futureliner." this window here will go all the way around, like, 270 degrees. really cool. over here's just gonna be, you know, a lounge area, tv on the wall right here. >> reporter: he had all this, and a key rock-star pre-requisite: tons of apparent self-confidence. but most of all, robb mawhinney had serious stacks of cash. >> i basically had an endless
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bank account with, you know, money inside of it. >> reporter: what no one realized, until the bill came due, was that all of it, the whole star-spangled shebang, was not what it seemed to be. >> a big lie? >> right from the get-go. a complete lie. >> reporter: as a teen in orange county, mawhinney idolized high-energy rock bands who'd climbed the ladder to multi-platinum success. like blink-182. but by his mid-20s, he & his homeboys weren't going anywhere. and lights over paris had no recording contract, no gigs, no merch. yet somehow, robb had cheddar like a cracker barrel. brimming with bank and the urge to spend it, on things like trips to new york city. >> it was crazy. there was a lot of booze, a lot of champagne, and the hotel suite ended up getting trashed at the end of the trip, so -- >> reporter: brian king had responded to a craigslist ad to be a videographer for lights over paris. what he saw in ny?
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no rock, but a whole lotta high rollin'. >> i didn't observe any shows or any rock & roll. he got a bunch of his buddies from la, they all flew into new york. one of their friends, they got him to streak through several blocks in soho. >> reporter: ah, but then the 5'6" frontman, now calling himself robb talllll, because why not? landed in an l.a. recording studio, doing a lights over paris album with professional musicians. even a string section in support. one small problem -- he didn't have a label. and he'd never made a record before. a lot of people didn't really know what the deal was with rob. people just thought he was a really wealthy guy who wanted to be the next blink 182. >> reporter: but with his blink-and-you-missed-it rock resume, robb dug deep for top-shelf help. a choreographer, phat rhymes from the rap star "game" --
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and a six-figure music video. cast from a pool of women to star as the femme fatale in lights over paris' "turn off the lights" stunning olivia hardt, scream queen of syfy's sharknado-esque tv-movie arachnoquake, spotted a lag in robb's swag. >> i got in the transportation van. and i knew that it was rob sitting right next to me, the guy that i was gonna be kissing that day. but he did not say a word to me. i think he was a little bit nervous. >> we can't make out with your teeth on. >> no, i'm just saying, for that part -- >> i mean, after the scene, he's like, that wasn't as, as scary as i thought it was gonna be." it was definitely a first for him, and he let me know that. >> reporter: olivia says she soon began to wonder about the source of robb's boundless bankroll. >> what did he say to you when you asked, "where is all this money coming from?" >> he told me that his grandfather had passed away that he received some inheritance. >> i was working with my grandfather. we'd buy lots and we'd build houses on 'em.
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it succeed ed and i made a couple bucks. >> it was a big lie? >> yeah. i know that now. >> he had a problem with people thinking he just walked into having money. >> reporter: in fact, robb had walked into banks and asked for millions in loans. the loan officer in the bank, asked mr. mawhinney to provide proof of the statements that he made in the application, regarding his assets and his income. to loan officers he produced documents listing $8 million in stocks. and this accountant-prepared 1040. 4 different banks issued mawhinney loans to the tune of $11 million. but as lights over paris toured, it turned out that there are some things that money can't buy. like fans. >> a couple girls told me about a sold out show, about this band, lights over paris. and so i wanted to come see what was going on with this band. >> reporter: when rock photographer derek brad got to the north star bar in philadelphia, those on stage nearly outnumbered the audience.
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>> there was actually less than 10 people here. >> reporter: it was sold out, because robb tall had bought all the tickets. only the lights over paris street team couldn't even give them away. then on october 1, 2011 the night they were to play the roxy, on la's sunset strip, robb didn't even show up. sending a dj in his place instead. >> why wasn't robb doing the show? >> i guess his high school reunion was that night? >> reporter: and how about this for a remix. that's the dj getting served, onstage, with legal papers intended for robb, now way behind on his riot house rent. the party, the parties, were over. one year later robb was arrested in miami. the $11 million in loans and the documents he submitted to get them? yeah, about those -- >> the tax return was entirely fake. and the cpa whose name was used on the letter, again we interviewed him, and he said,
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again "robert mawhinney? never heard of him." >> reporter: then there was that big-money-in-stocks statement from schwab. >> this is what was submitted to the bank. >> and yes it says here, $8 million, total account value. >> that's correct. and then we obtained from charles schwab itself, here's the account statement. same account for the period may 2009. and here you can see the value in the account, zero. another big lie? >> another complete fabrication. >> reporter: robb was charged with multiple felonies. and would plead guilty to 4 counts of making false statements, take responsibility for his actions in court, and be sentenced to 7 years in prison. from where he called us exclusively with a mea culpa for all that madness. >> the thing i regret is -- is kind of losing control. my lifestyle was, it was crazy. and i was hoping deep down that i could rectify the situation and -- and pay these things back. >> reporter: now between his bible study group meetings, robb says he is taking guitar lessons.
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turned out robb really wasn't a gangsta or a player. >> why would i spend so much money on a tour when we're not u2? or green day. and that's one of the things that i sit in my cell and -- and -- and regret. >> here's a man who wanted to be a star, but apparently didn't have the talent to do it. he had to do it through crime. next, he said he could do all this as the top navy s.e.a.l., but what he was really great at was lying. >> it was insane. >> and he's about to meet his match. in the unlikeliest person. >> the navy s.e.a.l. >> yes. >> next on the big lie.
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20/20's the big lie returns. now with matt gutman. reporter: in these cynical times when heroes are scarce, navy s.e.a.l.s. may be the one thing americans can still believe in. capable of almost superhuman feats of combat skill and endurance, they are the real deal. famed for taking out world enemy
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one osama bin laden. hollywood has turned the s.e.a.l.s.' real life exploits into big budget movies, like the just released flick "lone survivor." so if you ever happen to meet a seal, you might react the way carol roberts did when she met aj dicken, with awe. >> your first impression of him? >> he's a big guy. he commands authority by his size. >> reporter: it was 2011 in carson city, nevada. carol, herself a navy vet was a student at dicken's military-style self defense school. that's dicken, running and gunning in videos he made to promote his business. >> it looked like, you know, a lot of fun. >> reporter: learning from a navy seal was part of the fun. but dicken wasn't just any old s.e.a.l. he claimed tours of duty in vietnam, desert storm, you name it. earning him the status as most decorated navy seal in history!
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if anyone asked for proof, he had his discharge papers at the ready. even emails from colonel oliver north. dicken's self-defense school was a success. but he dreamed way bigger, he wanted to set up his own lucrative overseas security business. to bankroll his new venture, dicken turned to a pair of local doctors enrolled in his self defense classes. the savvy seal talked them into investing upwards of $850,000. >> he said, 'i'm ex-navy seal, then i went into the cia he can be very charming, very engaging he presents a face that kind of draws you in. >> reporter: dicken's mystique and the allure of a big payout, led carol roberts to sign on as marketing director of the new firm. >> they needed somebody to do their marketing and so i said, "i'll do it." >> reporter: you actually quit a good job in order to work with dicken? >> yep. >> 'cause you thought the money was coming in.
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>> yep, because i had seen the contracts. >> worth hundreds of millions of dollars. >> yeah. >> reporter: yep, dicken, the sweet-talking seal, had landed a security contract with a united nations' affiliated organization, allegedly worth about half a billion dollars. it's all coming together. a.j. dicken's excellent adventure is getting off the ground. >> all of a sudden it was like, we're leaving for burundi in a week. >> reporter: no, this isnt the script for an action flick. but the first bit of business for dicken's new venture. deep in the african nation of burundi, there's a construction project looking to hire a security firm. dicken leads an expedition there to "seal" the deal. carol roberts is part of the team, as is chief pilot mike reynolds. but shortly after they land, the wheels start falling off. >> by the second day, we realized that people didn't know who we were, what we were doin' there. his house of cards started to crumble. the business trip to burundi has turned into a bungle in the jungle.
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and when the going gets tough, the tough get drunk. >> he'd fill up a glass of vodka and have that down for breakfast. i mean, the stuff he was comin' up with is just, it was insane. the whole situation there was just dangerous. >> reporter: carol's suspicion grows when the power goes out in the hotel and the supposedly steely-nerved seal nearly wets his fatigues. >> he freaked out, picked up his phone, runs into the other room talking to the c.i.a. to have them reposition his satellite so he can make sure that the rebels aren't coming to get him. >> no. >> yes. >> reporter: just then, a friend back in the states tips carol and the team off to a strange video, just posted on youtube. >> if i get another call asking if aj dicken is a navy seal, i'm gonna pull this pin out of the grenade and blow myself up. >> reporter: the guy in the
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video isn't some lunatic, he's actually a real former navy seal. one senior chief, don shipley. >> i knew right away he was a fake, and all i gotta do is check your name. i'll check your name, a couple of keystrokes. i can tell you if that guy's a seal or not. >> reporter: shipley has made it his personal mission to ferret out the fakes. every single day, using a special database only real s.e.a.l.s. can access. >> how many guys have kpu posed? >> thousands. >> thousands. >> oh, yeah. >> i verify, on average, at least 20 fraudulent seal claims every day. >> reporter: but shipley says aj dicken was no ordinary seal faker. for one thing, his claims were so over the top. remember those discharge papers? >> the awards in here are outrageous. >> why are they outrageous? >> oh, he says he has got two medals of honor. that hasn't happened since world war i. >> reporter: in fact, dicken never served a day in the military. and his phony resume was also missing a key detail. a burglary conviction that landed him in a california prison. for the team back in burundi,
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the last bit of dicken's cover's blown to bits. but knowing he's a fraud is cold comfort. >> you're sitting in the middle of africa with somebody that you're pretty convinced at this point is a sociopath at best, a psychopath at worst. >> reporter: the team hightails it back to nevada, and carol roberts wastes no time blowing the whistle about the real a.j. dicken. >> i went to one of the doctors with all of the evidence i had and said, "you have a problem." it was all a great big fraud. >> reporter: dicken was fired. and escapes time. leaving only burned bridges and emptied wallets. months later, dicken's back on the radar when abc station kgo picks up his trail, leading to his parents' house outside los angeles. >> aj, i need to talk to you about your navy seal background. >> i don't have a navy seal background. >> you told a lot of people that, didn't you? >> no, i did not. >> reporter: now, true to form, dicken heads for the hills, again.
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but nobody is sure which hills, until a few months ago. >> we've been trying to track down dicken for weeks. we know where he is. "20/20" tracked dicken to a secluded property in rural arkansas, where the road ends. the man doesn't get out much anymore, but we finally spotted him. mr. dicken? >> i have nothing to say to you. >> these appear to be your discharge papers and folks in the navy seal community say you're not a commando, you're a con artist. >> i have nothing to say. >> reporter: if you talk to me i'd like to hear your side of the story, sir. >> reporter: but dicken can't drive away so easily from his shady past. he's an ex-con, still banned from handling weapons, meaning this rambo routine is illegal. and now he's facing felony firearms charges in nevada. but as of today, a.j. dicken still walks the earth. maybe not as a seal, but as a
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free man. the people who say he's conned them, are hoping to see him soon -- wearing a different kind of uniform. >> you'll never get paid back for what you lost. but can you ever get payback? >> to be able to bring this to light and not just sweep it under the rug, is what my payback's gonna be. he's a coward and a liar. and that's all he has been, and that's all he ever will be. next, he tells lies for a living. >> i'm a jazz musician i travel 48 weeks a year. >> you're about to watch him in action. but are they tips to getting on tv? or landing in jail? >> i'm the best prank caller that ever existed. >> later, on "the big lie." now let's say a friend invites you over
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tonight the man you might have seen on tv before, perhaps you were riveted by his story, the problem is, each time he appeared, it was a different story. fooling tv hosts and producers and so many of you at home. is he a comic? or a criminal? you decide, here's abc's nick watt. reporter: kenny tarr is a rather unusual tv star. here you're watching "ken," a gypsy king with an eye for the ladies on "the bill cunningham show." >> i'm of hungiar and magadarian decent. that means the man can go gallivanting with another woman as long as he is direct and tells her the truth. >> reporter: and this is "eddie" on "the trisha goddard show" where he told the world he's a trucker with a gambling habit and a penchant for prostitutes. >> do you have sex in your truck? >> i've had sex in my truck before, yes. >> these hosts are just, just completely, uh, buying everything you're saying. >> reporter: on "judge alex,"
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"kenneth kenyon tarr" was a plumber, with an unusual complaint. >> i was locked in a mortuary for 14 hours. >> you were locked in. okay, now i have to hear this. >> reporter: so will the real kenny tarr please stand up? truth is, this clown is a 32-year-old college drop-out. he lives in this modest apartment in hollywood. he's single. >> hi, how are you doing today? i was looking to speak to someone in the literary department, please. >> reporter: he's an unsuccessful writer and stand-up comedian. >> do you guys actually work for a living? wow. i wish i -- i don't know. >> reporter: lying, hoaxing, fooling. this, says kenny tarr, is his art. >> andy kaufman, andy warhol, great, i'm glad they existed, but they're nothing compared to me. i don't really even look at them like peers. >> reporter: what? >> i don't have any respect -- >> reporter: what! what! what! >> -- for their accomplishments. >> reporter: you are saying that your performances are superior to andy kaufman?
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>> completely! i'm not being bragadoccious, i'm being real. >> reporter: we hung out with tarr back in september, before he found some genuine fame by getting arrested. more on that a little later. this is ed. he invited us behind the scenes for this exclusive glimpse of his process -- spinning yarn after yarn for reality show producers. >> i'm a jazz musician i travel about 48 weeks a year. >> reporter: tarr does it, he says, for the creative thrill. do you enjoy it, do you get a rush, is there adrenaline? >> i feel like, um, just like robert deniro or just like any other actor feels. >> i just got back from somalia. how are you? i feel creatively satisfied. >> reporter: how does he get on these shows? the producers of unfaithful
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believed he was a security expert caught in a baseless relationship. >> i couldn't believe how easy it was to have an affair. >> how could he convince the producers he was that plumber. >> i usually have to fabricate some document. i give a form. i'm a plumber, sewage blah, blah, blah. >> reporter: judge alex just found out he was fake. >> he had me totally convinced. >> reporter: judge alex tapes nine or ten shows a day when they are in production. >> we have been burned a couple times from cases we thought were real and turned out to be fake. i taped almost 1400 cases. so that's not a bad ratio >> reporter: tarr says his success rate is about one tv appearance for every 12 crazy pitches. >> my computer was damaged and i sued my fiancee, and then, uh, we went to france, and she left me at the altar in marseilles. >> reporter: his first tv hoax was back in 1997 on a show called "forgive or forget."
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tarr claimed he'd stolen his brother's fiancee. has a producer ever busted you? >> no, no, no. they were always like, "this guy is so over the top, this guy is so good for tv, this guy has such an interesting story. [ bleep ] we got burned!" some of them pay an appearance fee, maybe a hundred bucks. they all pay for flights hotels and food. i always tell them i have a job that pays me and they need to reimburse me for wages that don't exist. >> reporter: that's fraudulent! >> is it? i don't know words like that. >> reporter: and on the court shows, there's a pay-out. tarr's career earnings? maybe $20,000. so he's not really doing this for the money. we asked an expert, who refers to people like tarr as serial hoaxers, why do they do it? this is an individual who may see these other folks being much more successful than he is, who are much richer, but in his mind they really don't deserve it. >> reporter: have you ever had a
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psychiatric evaluation? >> oh, absolutely not. i keep myself out of the whole world of, like, people knowing who i am. >> reporter: are you actually kenny tarr or is this a fabrication? >> you're looking at kenny tarr right now. >> reporter: but, back in september, tarr told us it was getting harder to hoax tv shows. do you think every talk show producer now has a photo of you above their desk? >> they should. hi! >> reporter: so tarr hit the phones. again, he says this time he targeted about three dozen basketball and football coaches. >> i'm the best prank caller that ever existed. >> reporter: here he is apparently talking to san diego chargers offensive coordinator, ken whisenhunt. >> and what kind of position are you talking about? >> reporter: tarr is pretending to be with the university of texas. and he's offering whisenhunt the head coach job. he posted this video online. >> i'll make it very clear that you're the one that i would like to select, and we'll go from there. >> that sounds good. >> reporter: he may think it was a harmless prank, but in
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california, you can't record a conversation without the other person's consent. >> mr. tarr was booked for 632a of the penal code, which is felony eavesdropping. >> reporter: this week, tarr wound up in an l.a. court room as kenneth edward tarr, for real, no joke, with a new suit and a tidy haircut, facing potentially three years in the clink. >> yes, indeed! >> reporter: tarr admits he made the calls. but pled not guilty. his lawyer, who calls tarr a modern day mark twain, says this is a malicious prosecution. >> at the behest of the nfl because the nfl has hurt feelings they have filed felony charges on this prankster. >> reporter: who later tweeted, "it is all a hoax within a hoax and i'll tell you when it is not. >> there's no one else that's ever gotten close to what i've done. i think that there's oscars to be won. i think that there's other things to be done. >> reporter: will infamy and
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arrest and this "20/20" tell-all mean this is the last we'll see of kenny tarr? >> thank you. >> reporter: i'm guessing he'll be back. watch out. we're gonna be late. ♪ ♪ ♪ oh are we early? [ male announcer ] commute your way with the bold, all-new nissan rogue. ♪
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