Kevin Richard Halligen, who convinced lawyers, lobbyists and others in Washington’s elite intelligence community that he was a former British spy and allegedly conned them out of millions, pleaded guilty Friday in D.C. federal court to defrauding former business associates out of $2.1 million.
“Was it your intent to defraud?” U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly asked Halligen.
“It was,” replied Halligen, a former high roller who once lived for months at a time in a suite at the Willard Hotel but is now being held in a D.C. jail pending sentencing June 27.
Halligen, 51, lived in Washington and worked as a “security consultant” from 2005 to November 2008, until he drained his bank accounts and fled, leaving behind a string of creditors, from lawyers to limo drivers to housekeepers. He was arrested in Oxford, England, after a year on the run, and he was extradited to the United States in December to stand trial.
Halligen pleaded guilty Friday to defrauding Trafigura, an international company based in the Netherlands, that had hired him to help free two executives who had been arrested in Ivory Coast in 2006. The company paid Halligen about $12 million to provide “security, intelligence and public relations.”
Court documents show that Trafigura gave Halligen an additional $2.1 million in January 2007 to “hire lobbyists and influence officials in the United States on Trafigura’s behalf.” The next day, Halligen used nearly $1.7 million of that money to buy a large home with a swimming pool in Great Falls.
Halligen “exploited a company desperate to secure the release of its executives from a foreign prison,” U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. said in a statement. “He conned the company out of $2 million he claimed would be used to support his efforts to rescue them, but instead used the money to buy a six-bedroom mansion.”
Kollar-Kotelly told Halligen that the fraud conviction carries a maximum of 20 years in prison, but that under federal sentencing guidelines he would likely serve no more than 41 months. She also said he could be fined up to $75,000.
Halligen has been in jail for 42 months, since his November 2009 arrest in England. The U.S. attorney’s office said Halligen would be credited with time already served, which could satisfy his prison sentence.
Halligen, wearing a blue blazer, yellow tie and baggy brown pants, also agreed to pay restitution of $2.1 million to Trafigura. Federal public defender David Bos said Halligen had no assets, so he was not sure how or when Halligen could pay.
“He’s clearly done the honorable thing by pleading guilty,” said John Holmes, a retired British army general and former head of the British military’s special forces. Holmes said Halligen conned him out of thousands of dollars. “However, there is still the outstanding question of where all his money has gone,” he said.
Halligen will also likely be deported, but it was unclear to where. The U.S. attorney’s office said Halligen is an Irish citizen, but in court Friday, Halligen said he was born in Ireland but is a British citizen. Halligen told the judge he would leave the United States voluntarily.
The specific charges to which Halligen pleaded guilty are a small sliver of a wide array of civil lawsuits and allegations against him made by former friends and associates in more than 40 interviews with The Washington Post last year in Washington and London.
Owners of Washington restaurants remember him spending thousands on long, boozy days and evenings. He traveled everywhere in a chauffeured Lincoln Town Car.
His bank statements, obtained by The Post, show that clients were paying him hundreds of thousands of dollars, but he was spending the money just as fast. One restaurant owner said he and his staff called Halligen “James Bond,” because of his stories of spy derring-do and his habit of tossing around huge amounts of cash. There is no evidence that Halligen ever worked as an intelligence agent.
Of all Halligen’s excesses and deceptions, his former friends said, the most outrageous was his fake wedding. In April 2009, Halligen “married” his fiance, Maria Dybczak, a Commerce Department lawyer, at a showy ceremony at Georgetown’s grand Evermay Estate before an elite crowd of more than 100 people.
What no one knew at the time is that the minister who pronounced Halligen and his bride man and wife was actually a professional actor from Arlington’s Signature Theatre.
Friends said that shortly before the ceremony, Halligen told Dybczak that because he was an undercover agent, he couldn’t sign any public documents, including a marriage license. So rather than cancel, they hired an actor and went ahead with the sham wedding.
Two of the guests that day later sued Halligen.
Mark Aspinall, a London lawyer who had been Halligen’s connection to Trafigura, filed suit in federal court in Washington to recover money he had invested in Halligen’s company, and a judge ordered Halligen to pay back $871,000.
Halligen was also sued in Fairfax County Circuit Court by a man who gave a toast at the Evermay ceremony: Andre Hollis, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for counter-narcotics who once worked as legal counsel to the House of Representatives.
Hollis said in court papers that Halligen hired him as chief executive of his U.S. company, Oakley International, and that Hollis bought an ownership stake in the company that turned out to be worthless, because Halligen had drained the company’s accounts. A judge ordered Halligen to pay Hollis more than $5.7 million in damages.
Halligen came to Washington from London, where a similar string of associates have accused him of conning them.