Kevin Halligen: Best or Worst Fake Spy Ever?

So here’s something interesting. This fellow, Kevin Halligen, just spent the better part of a decade duping everybody in the Beltway into believing he was a British spy.

Washington’s intelligence elite — Pentagon officials, influential lawyers and lobbyists, former CIA operatives” all fell into his brilliant plot to convince them of his espionage career. Then he bilked them out of several million dollars by setting up shot as a corporate security consultant, based on his reputation as a world-class badass spy and whatnot. Then people would fork over cash.

Here is how Kevin Richard Halligen (who is not and has never been a spy) managed to convince everyone he was more or less James Bond. He told everyone this brilliant, well-crafted, fool-proof lie:

I am a British spy.”

That is gist of his daring ruse.

He told more or less everyone he met that he was a spy, or a former spy, or “in the spy community.” He did so while eating at expensive restaurants and drinking two-martini lunches at swanky restaurants and living at the Willard Hotel, all of which he could afford because people kept shoveling money over to him on account of his spy expertise.

Apparently he also liked to listen to spy stories, then repeat them at parties as his own undercover stories. Then people would think “Wow! This guy is a badass spy!”

Halligen even had a fake wedding in order to “protect his cover with the CIA,” which he did not work for. Guests were instructed that they couldn’t take any pictures of anyone with a lapel, what with Halligen being a secret agent and all. Sort of an honors system for that. Incidentally, Halligen had been married for real sixteen years earlier. This particular wedding was all a part of his ongoing James Bond ruse.

So he made millions and millions running a high-end security consultancy business, but then at some point people started getting suspicious. Maybe because he spent most of his time showing up to work late and drunk, then heading off to a bar to chat with people about how he was a super secret spy.

Eventually someone had the bright idea of doing a background check on the wanker and it turns out the “intelligence” work he did involved designing batteries for the British military a few years back. (Just like Sean Connery.) So he was not, in fact, a spy. As he had been telling everyone.

Halligen then went on the run. Do you know how they found him? They found him in a luxury hotel in Oxford, England, cultivating an impressive bar tab, getting schnockered all the time and telling people fun anecdotes about his life as an international spy.

Here is what boggles my mind. WHO ON EARTH BELIEVED THIS MAN? Let’s do a quick quiz, shall we? Let’s say you work for MI6 as a British Spy. Which of the following would you use to maintain your deep espionage cover in a foreign capital?

I don’t think I know any spies, but I suspect if I did they wouldn’t go around telling everyone that they’re spies for a living. That sort of thing would be counter productive to being a spy. In fact if someone told me, “I’m an international spy,” I would think they’re full of crap immediately. If you’re going to become a spy, you should tell people you’re a mortuary accountant. Nobody will want to ask you followup questions about that.

If someone seemed kind of milquetoast and bland, but kept asking questions about nuclear technology, and they couldn’t keep the name of their wife straight, then I might think they’re a spy.

But if they kept insisting that they were a super-secret spy, can we agree at the very least that they would be a terrible spy? What with the whole underlying premise to espionage being that you stay undercover?

This entire episode raises questions about the “Washington elite” duped by this man. I’ve seen plenty of chubby tourists with fanny packs and FBI hats, and yet I’ve never seen a Bubba with a bulging “Secret Service” t-shirt on and thought to ask him what the inside of the West Wing is like. When I see people in CIA hats and golf shoes I rarely ask them about their life thwarting Colombian drug cartels.

I suspect the whole thing might be that my entire country is just plane stupid when it comes to British accents. If an Englishman says, “I’m an international spy,” we cock our chin on our hand and say “REALLY?”

Which gives me an idea: I wonder if I couldn’t start claiming I’m an international spy, so long as I say it like I’m from Surrey. Then maybe I’ll start up a consultancy firm.

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Andrew Heaton is a writer and standup comedian in New York City. If this post made you laugh or think, kindly "like" it on Facebook.


  • Teresa
    June 11, 2012 - 2:35 pm | Permalink

    I have an English accent dialect tape you could borrow.

    • Heaton
      June 11, 2012 - 4:45 pm | Permalink

      …Might help… might help indeed…

  • Mr Alive
    June 11, 2012 - 3:22 pm | Permalink

    There was a strikingly similar case in the Calgary Herald over the weekend.
    This guy, Daniel Clayton, claimed to be a British Special forces soldier, held a purple heart, served in Afganistan, Borneo. Then for a change of pace was bodyguard to Brad Pitt, Madonna, etc, earned 2 university degrees, self published his memoirs, then was and was acting a security consultant, and running multiple risk advisory, public relations companies… collecting truckloads of $$.

    Should i mention he is only 28yo? How does this not ring some big alarm bells with people?!

    It all came to an end for him though when he was busted chatting up a 13yo girl online who happened to be an undercover Toronto Police Officer. They must hire them young in Toronto. He was subsequently charged with distributing and possessing child porn.

    He’s assured everyone though, that none of the allegations are true, his laptop was obviously hacked and that’s how the content was being distributed; and he is only concerned with getting back his laptop so he can rebuild his life when he gets out of the can.

    That’s not the only thing he’s going to have to rebuild after time inside on charges like that.

    • Heaton
      June 11, 2012 - 4:46 pm | Permalink

      That guy sounds sort of like the character from Catch me if You Can, only a skeezeball.

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