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“CAPTAIN” CON-MAN ARRESTED
IN CANADA – WORE CAMI’S AND GREEN
BERET AT SCENE OF OKLAHOMA BRIDGE
COLLAPSE – KNEW NAME OF DEAD ARMY
OFFICER BEFORE ANYONE ELSE – INSISTED
ON GOING THROUGH LAPTOP AND PAPERS



A 30- year-old Missouri man, who impersonated a Green Beret captain and told rescue workers at the May 26th bridge collapse in Oklahoma the name of a dead Army officer before the victim’s body was recovered from the waters of the Arkansas River, has been arrested in Canada.

William Clark, an ex-convict from Tallapoosa, Mo., was nabbed by Ontario Provincial Police on fraud and theft charges as he tried to board a ferry in Tobermory, Canada.

The accused impostor, who’d been sought by the FBI, was released from Central Missouri Correctional Center last December after serving a three-year prison term. Clark had been convicted of theft of services and passing bad checks.

ARRIVES ON THE SCENE

Rescue workers said Clark showed up at the scene of the bridge collapse on Route 40 in Webbers Falls, Okla., two hours after the accident occurred, claiming to be an Army officer from Fort Carson, Colo.

Mayor Jewell Horne said Clark took control of rescue and recovery efforts and insisted he was “in charge.”

“I told him the next day he was NOT in charge, unless we were under martial law,” the mayor recalled. “He didn’t stick around long after that.”

But in the two days he was at Webber Falls, Clark was a highly visible presence, “playing the part” to the hilt, even giving interviews to local media.

One observer said the bogus captain had his act “down pat” even to the point of the close-cropped haircut, spit-shined boots and military manner.

HOW DID HE KNOW?

“He knew way too much too early,” said suspicious nurse Melanie James, who’d volunteered to help at the riverfront.

She cited Clark’s foreknowledge of the name and rank of U.S. Army CPT Andrew Clements, the only service member of the 14 people who died in the bridge collapse.

Clements, 34, had been driving cross-country from California to his new assignment in Alexandria, Va.

James told police that at the time Clark named the dead captain, no one knew who had been killed in the ten submerged vehicles that drove off the severed bridge span.

LOOKING AT THE LAPTOP AND BRIEFCASE

Rescue workers told police that Clark was intent on searching the contents of Clement’s briefcase and looking through his laptop computer, recovered from the murky waters by a local fisherman.

Eyewitnesses said the phony “Green Beret” took the material into the office of a nearby restaurant and spread out papers and documents to dry on top of a desk. He carefully checked the laptop, examined Clement’s identification “dog tags,” and when he was done, told Mayor Jewell he wanted the items locked in a safe, with him the only one having access. The mayor refused.

Clark didn’t depart empty-handed. Lottie Hufford, a local resident who helped with the rescue attempts, told investigators she saw the Green Beret impostor leave the area with at least three file folders under his arm.

WORKED IN ARMY ACQUISITIONS

CPT Clements, a 1991 West Point graduate and former enlisted man, had just earned his master’s degree in systems acquisitions from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. According to an Army spokesperson, the captain was traveling to his new assignment with the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command in Alexandria, Va.

The father of four owned a new home in nearby Woodbridge, Va. His wife had the family BMW while Clements was traveling cross-country in a new silver Honda Odyssey van.

In another strange twist in the mystery of what really happened, CPT Clements was the only one of 14 victims in the bridge collapse to have died – according to an autopsy by the Oklahoma state medical examiner – of “blunt head trauma.” All the others were listed as killed by drowning.

WAS CLARK A “TRACKER?”

Did Clark and Clements know each other from somewhere? Or was Clark “tailing” Clements as he made his long road journey? Prior to his arrest, Clark had been reported driving a 1985 powder blue Ford Mustang with New Mexico license plates. A check of the registration gave a Las Cruces, N.M. residence.

What was Clark doing in Las Cruces, not far from sensitive government research facilities? Why not Missouri plates? Impersonating an officer is one thing. Knowing so much about a real one – one who may have been carrying classified documents with him on his journey – is uncanny. Knowing that Clements was killed in the bridge accident and his body still submerged under water before anyone had found it is downright eerie.

Had Clark’s path crossed with CPT Clements somewhere between California and Oklahoma? Maybe at a highway rest stop? Had a “pinger” been placed on Clement’s vehicle unbeknownst to him, so Clark – or someone else – would know at any given time where the officer was during his trip?

Clements had been a captain an unusually long time. Even though the Pentagon said he was being promoted to major within the month, eleven years is a lengthy time for a West Pointer not to have already reached field grade rank.

Did Clement’s job – purchasing and acquisitions – have anything to do with why Clark knew about him and zeroed in on the captain’s briefcase and laptop computer?

A TRAIL OF FRAUD AND DECEIT

It was almost as if Clark wanted to be caught.

On Tuesday, May 28th, in Van Buren, Ark., the con-man “captain” showed up at a local motel and said he’d been helping with the bridge disaster. He said he needed eight rooms for the night for himself and other workers. He stayed in one of the rooms and put “Do Not Disturb” signs on the others, none of which were ever occupied. The following morning, Clark skipped town owing a $900 bill.

By Wednesday, Clark was in Searcy, Ark., some 230 miles from the bridge disaster scene. Still wearing his “Green Beret” and Army fatigues, he walked into the Truman Baker Dodge dealership and talked the owners into letting him “borrow” the keys to a 1997 red Dodge pickup. He said he needed the vehicle to transport supplies to the rescue workers in Oklahoma.

That was the last they saw of him. Or the truck.

WHY CANADA?

Impersonating a U.S. Army officer for “kicks,” or even to defraud well-meaning citizens of goods and services is one thing. But by the time police caught up with Clark in Canada, it was evident he wanted to get out of the United States as quickly as possible.

Did he have possession of sensitive documents or information that might be of value to another country? From Toronto, he could have used an assumed identity and flown to any number of locations, including Communist Cuba.

Investigators aren’t talking, but one thing is sure. There is a lot more to this story than officials are letting on.



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