Local instructor fakes his academic credentials; military history also in question.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
For five years, Monterey Institute of Inernational Studies instructor Bill Hillar, purportedly a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Special Forces, packed the university’s lecture halls with tales of swashbuckling heroism and gut – wrenching tragedy.
MIIS student Chui Archuleta describes classmates weeping openly as Hillar, a tall and powerfully built man in his 60s, choked up at a workshop he taught last October while recounting the story of his own 17-year-old daughter’s abduction and eventual murder at the hands of a Southeast Asian human trafficking ring. Hillar’s talks sparked some students to share their own stories of abuse, Archuleta says.
But the U.S. State Department has no report of a kidnapping of a 17-year – old U.S. citizen with the last name of Hillar anywhere in the world in 1988, the year Hillar has said his daughter was seized, according to spokesman John Echard.
“I’m upset at the university because I and a roomful of others signed up and took a workshop from this man, and all of it was a lie,” Archuleta says.
Now, Archuleta and his classmates are coming to terms with the news that Hillar, who regularly offered workshops in human trafficking and a field he called “tactical counter-terrorism,” may be a total fake.
Military officials could not provide evidence that Hillar ever served in the U.S. Army Special Forces, much less attained the rank of colonel. A government document shows Hillar held a more mundane job, as a radar operator in the U.S. Coast Guard between 1962 and 1970.
Jeff Hinton, a retired Special Forces master sergeant who runs professionalsoldiers.com, an online community of Special Forces members, recently obtained the records under the federal Freedom of Information Act.
“We’ve busted quite a few frauds,” he says. “We earned [our military credentials] and we paid. We’re professional warriors. [MIIS] owes a huge apology to all the students.”
On Nov. 20, MIIS issued a statement noting Hillar had falsified his academic credentials – he claimed to have a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon. MIIS will allow students to choose another workshop free of charge.
Students and faculty held Hillar in high esteem, according to Archuleta. For the past two years, the school offered $1,500 for the best essay on human trafficking in memory of Sale Hillar, purportedly Hillar’s daughter.
MIIS spokesman Jason Warburg says the school is cooperating with a sheriff’s deputy on the anti-human trafficking unit of the Multnomah County, Ore., Sheriff’s Office, which is also investigating Hillar.
Hillar didn’t return several phone calls requesting comment.
Naval Postgradutate School lecturer Hy Rothstein, a retired Special Forces officer, says one of the areas of expertise in Hillar’s MIIS bio, tactical counter-terrorism, should have raised red flags.
“That’s bullshit,” Rothstein says, adding that while some Special Forces units engage in counter-terrorism, none use the term “tactical counter-terrorism.”
Hinton calls the term “moronic.”
Hillar also faked out the University of Oregon, as well as law enforcement groups and the local American Red Cross, where he also gave training.
MIIS student Brian Hubbs, who undertook his own investigation of the instructor, says Hillar sparked dozens of students to combat human trafficking in their careers, but still used the alleged false front for personal gain.
“It was all done for selfish reasons,” Hubbs says.