Other friends said Halligen had a habit of hearing spy stories and then repeating them later as tales of his own bravery. One friend said Halligen loved to show off a metal cigarette lighter with an inscription thanking him for helping in a secret rescue of hostages in Colombia.
“A real spy doesn’t do that,” said the friend, who asked not to be named.
Halligen’s taste for luxury was also getting him into trouble. Scarlett Guess, Halligen’s landlord in London, said Halligen rented three floors of her building for close to $20,000 a month, but paid only sporadically.
At the same time, his corporate bank statements, contained in court records in Washington, show that he was spending tens of thousands of dollars at such places as the five-star Stafford London Hotel and Les Ambassadeurs Club, a private casino where membership costs about $40,000 a year.
Before Holmes noticed the increasing warning signs, he said, he backed Halligen’s application to join the Special Forces Club in central London, an exclusive private club for people with links to British intelligence.
That membership helped Halligen immensely as he set his sights on an ultra-lucrative security consultant mecca: Washington.
A high-level network
When Halligen breezed into Washington about 2005, one of his first calls, according to associates, was to Patton Boggs, the heavyweight law firm. He hired the firm to help set up his new U.S. business, Oakley International, which offered risk analysis and security advice to corporate customers.
A key contact at Patton Boggs was lobbyist John C. Garrett, a retired U.S. Marine colonel who serves as the firm’s senior defense policy adviser. Garrett declined to comment for this article, saying Patton Boggs does not discuss former clients.
Halligen used each new contact to methodically build up a high-level network. Garrett introduced Halligen to a number of key Washington establishment figures, including Noel Koch, who was a White House aide under President Richard M. Nixon and whom President Obama appointed deputy undersecretary of defense.
“If John Garrett was vouching for him, that was good enough for me,” Koch said.
Koch recalled getting to know Halligen over boozy lunches at Ristorante La Perla on Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
Shown a photo of Halligen, who, 5-foot-6 and clean-cut, looks like a slightly elfin Boy Scout, La Perla owner Vittorio Testa recalled that he came in nearly every day. Testa said Halligen would sit on the outdoor patio smoking cigarettes and drinking heavily, often arriving at 11 a.m. and not leaving until 4.