The Impostor

A Master Of Disguise

Over his life, 42-year-old David Pecard has had many careers. Among other things, he has been a lawyer, a police officer, an emergency room technician and a soldier.

He has also been many people: Wayne Simms, Kenny Tyler, Thomas Michael Lamar, Brandon Lee Bailey, David Auni, Michael Simms, Robert Simms and Paul Robert Ritter, among others.

Who is Pecard? No one, not even him, is quite sure. But whatever else he may be, he is also a prolific con man, who over the last 25 years has talked his way with remarkable skill into police departments and onto top secret military posts.

He conducted federal investigations with the FBI, put criminals behind bars and married six women. 48 Hours Correspondent Peter Van Sant reports on this extremely unusual case.

"He has to probably be one of the biggest conmen in the United States of America," says Arizona's Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who in 1996 was conned into deputizing Pecard. "How could he pose as military police; agent, U.S. marshall, FBI, you name it? And he got by with it!"

"Doors can be opened if you know how to open them," Pecard says. "I am a chameleon. I adapt. It's what I've been my whole life."

As a high-profile sheriff known for being tough on crime, Arpaio doesn't seem like a likely mark. But in 1996 Arpaio met Pecard, then an Army sergeant, doing military investigations in the Phoenix area. Pecard came to Arpaio's office with a lieutenant colonel.

He told Arpaio that he could help the sheriff with getting military equipment. "I just believed him, and I'm always looking for free equipment," Arpaio says. The sheriff personally deputized Pecard, and told his executive officer, Tom Bearup, to set him up with an office and whatever he needed.

"To my knowledge we never did a background investigation or anything," Bearup says. "Joe walked him through."

Pecard basically worked without supervision, Arpaio admits.

But Pecard wasn't out to make money, he says: "If I'm a conman, I guess that makes me the Robin Hood of conmen, because if I'm running cons, most omy cons have been to do something good."

This Robin Hood assembled his own band of helpers, including his neighbor, Joe Thomas. They went out together on stakeouts, answering police calls and pulling people over. Pecard had as many as five or six investigators working for him, he says. The sheriff's office says he had no authority to do this.

Pecard's odyssey came to a crashing halt in November 1996, when Pecard allegedly checked two female inmates out of the county jail and sexually abused them. Three days after being accused, he was arrested.

In subsequent weeks, his house of ID cards came crashing down, leaving authorities in several states and foreign countries to sift through his multiple identities.

One of the inmates, Drema Scrivener, told police investigators that Pecard promised to shorten her sentence for a minor drug charge. Then he checked her out of jail.

Scrivener says Pecard took her to an empty office and started fondling her. Videotape showed that Pecard had checked Scrivener and others out of the jail.

Pecard was arrested on charges of improperly taking inmates out of jail and sexual assault. When he was picked up, Pecard was carrying a driver's license with the name Thomas McAfee, and papers saying he was an Army chaplain. When authorities searched his house, they found evidence of more identities.

His deceptions had caught up with him. He faced eight felony counts, including fraud. On top of that, the Army discovered that Pecard had enlisted and deserted at least seven times under seven different identities. Pecard faced life in prison.

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What made Pecard such an effective chameleon? "He's got that air about him, that you will buy whatever he's selling," says Detective John Brutsche, who led the investigation in Phoenix that exposed Pecard. Brutsche, who has worked on hundreds of fraud cases in his career, says that Pecard is the best con man he has ever seen.

Pecard is a complex man. Sometimes he has done good deeds. In 1995, for example, Pecard, while actinas a Department of Defense investigator, tracked down Robert Allen Franklin, a con man.

Franklin had been impersonating military investigators and duping women out of money. Pecard was the only one who was able to track down and capture this con man.

In October 1996, however, while he was a Maricopa County deputy, Pecard bilked a couple out of $7,500. He promised them he could get their daughter out of jail. He took their money but did not do so.

Pecard, though, doesn't see himself as a con man. "I see myself as a little boy who made a change and continued to live out that change many years into his life," he says.

How did Pecard get his start? Find out: Read "The Impostor's Early Years."

Produced by David Kohn;