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Contractor Made Millions Claiming Army Stripes

Photo credit: Soldier’s Media Center, Flickr CC

Syndicated From Michigan Messenger

In December 2003, the founders of Triple Canopy, a private security firm in Baghdad, caught their first big break, signing a contract with the Coalition Provisional Authority governing Iraq. Within four months, Triple Canopy had signed six contracts worth more than $28 million to guard U.S. facilities throughout Iraq.

For Triple Canopy chief executive officer Barrett H. Moore and the military veterans who founded the company, these agreements launched the company on the path to become what it is today: one of the leading private military contractors, sharing a $1 billion contract with Blackwater USA and DynCorps to guard U.S. personnel in the Middle East.

Moore, 43, a Chicago businessman, now presents himself as a former U.S. Army Intelligence officer and business “visionary” who revolutionized the private security market but an Army spokesman said Moore was never an officer and never had intelligence training. Moore, fired by Triple Canopy in 2004, has launched a new private security firm called Sovereign Deed. He has parlayed his Triple Canopy success into political influence, persuading Republican and Democratic state officials to rewrite state law so that Sovereign Deed can receive $10 million in tax abatements to establish a base of operations in northern Michigan.

In promoting Sovereign Deed, Moore has emphasized the military expertise of himself and the company’s top officials. On the company’s Web site, Moore states that he “served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, specializing in issues related to the non-proliferation of biological weapons and related weapons of mass destruction (WMD).”

What Moore’s Pentagon patrons and political allies in Michigan have not known is the true story of Moore’s military service. According to U.S. Army record keepers, Moore never completed his Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program in college and was discharged from an inactive branch of the Reserves in 1994 without ever having gone through basic training. Contrary to the claims on Sovereign Deed’s Web site, Moore never served as an Army intelligence officer, or in any other branch of the country’s armed forces.

Moore’s brushes with law enforcement also escape detection. He was convicted of three counts of criminal fraud in Australia in 1992 and served time in prison, according to court records there. An appeals court later reversed Moore’s conviction. But in a related criminal trial, Moore acknowledged participating in an “illegal enterprise” to smuggle cars from Chicago to Melbourne and admitted fabricating documents as part of the operation.

Moore did not return phone calls requesting comment.

Moore’s story is another chapter in the remarkable emergence of private military contractors since the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Caught shorthanded after the U.S. invasion in 2003, the American authorities scrambled to find protection for U.S. facilities and personnel with few procedures for vetting their background or controlling their activities. As contractors like Triple Canopy and Blackwater USA grew, their armed employees became embroiled in unprovoked shooting incidents and the killing of Iraqi civilians, and Congress and the State Department launched investigations that are still ongoing.

As the Barrett Moore story illustrates, the rise of the privatized security came at the expense of accountability. When Michigan Messenger reconstructed his career, the returning war zone entrepreneur who boasted to Michigan residents and politicians of an Army Intelligence career turns out to have more experience as a used car salesman.

Selling Military Expertise

According to interviews and public records, Barrett Holloway Moore, 43, is a creative businessman whose audacious style has won admirers and alienated former business partners.

In 1995 he made headlines in Chicago when he successfully proposed marriage to lawyer Mary Szews by hiring a helicopter to wave a banner outside the window of her office on the 73rd story of the Sears Tower. Last year, Moore registered more trademarks with government on behalf of Sovereign Deed than all but five U.S. corporations.

Moore has been sued for fraud three times since 2005, according to court records. One of the lawsuits has been settled, one went to arbitration with unknown results, and a third is still pending in Illinois state court.

Moore and his associates at Sovereign Deed have emphasized military experience as a key feature of the company. The firm’s spokesman in northern Michigan is retired Brigadier General Richard Mills, a former deputy commanding general for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

In community meetings about Sovereign Deed’s plans in November, Mills received hearty applause when he was introduced as a 30-year military veteran. He said he was proud to associate with veterans whom he called “the most magnificent of people.”

In a phone interview Mills said that Moore was among the people who brought military experience to Sovereign Deed, adding he knew people who had served with him. He declined to provide any names.

But a spokesman for the National Personnel Records Service in St. Louis, which maintains records on all armed service personnel, said the NPRS has no record of Moore’s service. Another search by the Army Human Resources Command in Alexandria, Va., determined that Moore never completed his college ROTC training at DePauw University in Indiana in 1985-86, had never gone into basic training or been on active duty or had intelligence responsibilities.

In response to questions from Michigan Messenger , a Sovereign Deed official stressed the accusation, if true, was quite serious.

“Stating that one has falsified military service goes to the very core of pride, honor, and integrity of those who have served," wrote Glenn Collins, the chief operating officer of Sovereign Deed, in an email.

Collins provided three documents that he said supported Moore’s claims to have served in U.S. Army Intelligence.

The first document Sovereign Deed provided was a letter, dated September 11, 1985, from Col. Nicholas Fritsch who served as the lieutenant commander of the 476th Military Intelligence Detachment in Indianapolis. As a member of ROTC, Moore served in the unit under Fritsch’s command.

“Cadet Moore is one of the most impressive service members with whom I have served throughout my career,” Fritsch wrote in recommending Moore for commission as a military intelligence officer,” “…[He] has shown the personal traits and skills of a natural leader.”

In a telephone interview with Michigan Messenger , Fritsch, now retired and living in Florida, recalled Moore as “a high school all-star type, …good looking…, …smart, possibly athletic, a person of tremendous capability.”

Fritsch said that Moore’s claim of Army intelligence service was “making a mountain out of a mole hill.”

At the level of Moore’s service he would have no first-line connection to high-ranking intelligence," Fritsch said. He added that he thought public boasting about intelligence work was inappropriate because it could compromise security.

The second document provided by Sovereign Deed was a May 1986 letter notifying Moore of his transfer to a U.S. Army Reserve unit until his expected graduation later in the year. The third document was an honorable discharge certificate dated April 21, 1994. Moore’s rank at the time of discharge was blacked out on the copy of the document provided by Sovereign Deed.

The records confirm that Moore participated in the ROTC program as an undergraduate but provide no evidence of active duty intelligence work. Documents available at Michigan Messenger .

Moore’s intelligence work is not part of the public record, Collins stated in his email. “Mr. Moore worked for various agencies during his military service such that his records are kept outside of the NPRS,” he wrote.

“I hear that all the time,” replied Master Sergeant Keith O’Donnell, a spokesman for the Army Human Resources Command. O’Donnell said he checked the Army’s classified holdings and protected data bases that log the educational records of enlisted and commissioned personnel. Moore’s record shows none of the training that would be required of an Army intelligence officer, he said.

O’Donnell pointed out that service personnel are retired at their highest rank, and Moore was discharged from the Reserves as a grade of sergeant (E5), meaning he was never an officer.

“He never went anywhere with a military career,” O’Donnell said.

‘A Tissue Of Lies And Deception’

Moore did not go into the military after graduating from college, according to fraternity brothers and former business associates. They say Moore moved to Australia after graduation from DePauw in December 1986. By March 1988 he was working as an equity options trader at a bank in Sydney and moonlighting for a company called Eurotek that imported and resold used cars.

Court records show that the Australian customs service raided Eurotek’s office in May 1989, seizing five cars and documents that showed Moore had kept two sets of records, one of which systematically undervalued the imported cars. According to the judge in the case, Moore admitted that his actions “were aimed at defrauding the revenue authorities and at misleading a prospective financier.” (Documents available at Michigan Messenger .)

In February 1992 Moore was convicted of deceptively obtaining over $300,000 in connection with the used car business, according to court records. He was sentenced to a 16-month prison term. He was released after serving a portion of his sentence. In 1993 he testified against his former Eurotek associate in a related criminal trial in Sydney.

The judge in the second case described Moore as a key figure in the enterprise which procured used Rolls Royces and Porsches in the Chicago area and shipped them to Australia with fraudulent documentation of their value. The cars were then resold at a profit. While accepting some of Moore’s testimony, Judge J. Byrne said Moore was “a man who had so enshrouded himself in a tissue of lies and deception as to be a witness whose credit is of little value.”

Byrne ruled that Moore’s associate, an Indonesian man named Hiran Jayakody, was “the moving spirit” behind Eurtotek. Jayakody was ordered to pay a fine of approximately a million dollars. At the date of Moore’s discharge from the U.S. Army Reserves in April 1994, he was still fighting legal charges in Australia.

In December 1994 Moore’s 1992 conviction was reversed. Though Moore had admitted that he acted to defraud Australian customs agency, the Eurotek trial raised doubts about the evidence used to convict him and his conviction was struck from the record.

In 1995 Moore enrolled in the University of Chicago business school. He received his Master’s of Business Administration in 1997, according to school records. A year later he filed for bankruptcy in Chicago, declaring that he was $2.7 million in debt and his two companies, Arbitrage Imports International and Knight International, were insolvent.

In a biography submitted last year to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation in support of his bid for state tax incentives, Moore stated that Knight International Holdings, “was sold upon reaching revenue in the $50M range.”

‘Best Business Practices’

Moore was operating a software company in Chicago in the summer of 2002 when he first made contact with the men behind Triple Canopy. According to a court filing submitted by Moore’s attorneys in the pending Illinois fraud lawsuit, Moore entered email discussions with Matthew Mann, a former Delta Force veteran, about establishing a private security firm, Mann is listed on the Triple Canopy Web site as a co-founder of the company with a Special Forces veteran named Tom Fortis. Mann and Fortis declined to be interviewed for this article.

The company was founded in Chicago in 2003, according to its Web site. Moore was involved with the company by July 2003 when he applied to register trademarks for “Triple Canopy Group” and 90 other related names with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

After Triple Canopy started winning contracts in Iraq in late 2003, Moore presented himself as a leader in the burgeoning industry of private military contractors. In February 2004, he represented the company at a $1,000-a-seat business forum held at the National Press Club in Washington. He recommended that firms looking to do business in Iraq should find a local partner.

“You are in a position to mentor them and help them with perhaps best business practices from your country or your world and at the same time, you’re in a position to try to offer a series of services or products that don’t exist in Iraq,” Moore said.

In March 2004, Moore donated $2,000 to George Bush’s reelection committee and identified himself as the CEO of Triple Canopy, according to federal election records.

Less than a month later, he was fired by Triple Canopy’s board of directors. In a lawsuit filed in May 2004, the company charged him with fraud, with raiding the company treasury for his own profit, and seizing control of the company’s Web addresses and communications infrastructure as a bargaining chip in negotiations of a severance package.

Moore denied the charges, saying he used company funds for business expenses with the knowledge of his colleagues. The lawsuit was settled out of court in September 2005. The terms of the agreement are confidential but according to bank records filed in the Illinois fraud lawsuit, Moore received a $6 million payment in March 2006 identified as “Triple Canopy settlement.”

Why did Moore’s legal problems in Australia, his bankruptcy and his apparent misrepresentation of his military background not surface when it came to gaining millions of dollars in security contracts with the U.S. government?

One reason, according to the Office of Defense Trade Controls (ODCT) is that officers of companies applying for Iraq contracts need only swear that they have not been convicted of violations of the U.S. defense export laws.

“We might want to look at changing that,” said Dave Trimble, chief of ODTC’s compliance and registration division. “We have broad authority to take any derogatory information into account.”

The Industry’s Future.

Moore’s latest venture in northern Michigan has won official support while stirring local opposition.

Moore’s colleagues say he is eager to commercialize the market for privatized disaster response. Rick Johnson, the former speaker of the Michigan Legislature who now serves as Sovereign Deed’s lobbyist, said Moore is “taking the industry where it needs to go next.”

A community group calling itself We Don’t Need Sovereign Deed says the company’s claims of economic benefits are unsupported and that the idea of privatizing disaster response is undemocratic.

Moore’s proposal to establish an operational center in the town of Pellston has been endorsed by a bipartisan cast of state officials. Earlier this year, Democratic state Senator Gary MacDowell and Republican state Senator Jason Allen drafted a bill to grant tax abatements to encourage Sovereign Deed to locate on 700 acres of municipal property adjacent to an airport. The state Legislature unanimously approved the bill, which was signed into law by Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm.

Opponents have asked questions about a proposed long-term lease of 700 acres of municipal property and the construction of a hangar to accommodate army cargo planes in Sovereign Deed operations. Elected officials in Pellston have declined to answer the questions, citing confidentiality agreements with the firm.

“Moore’s smart,” said resident Tim Boyko said. “He set it up so people cannot question, and it’s like these local officials’ brains short out when they get around retired generals and homeland security-type people.“

Eartha Jane Melzer is a reporter for Michigan Messenger . All of Michigan Messenger’s coverage of Sovereign Deed is available here.

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