HOPE MILLS, NC — Controversy surrounds the arrest of a Fort Bragg soldier on Saturday on fraud charges, following allegations that he was impersonating a civilian for personal benefit.
Army Specialist James Mountebank admits that he was at the popular Fayetteville hotspot It'z Entertainment City, but claims he had no fraudulent intent when he reportedly told a bartender and two fellow patrons that he was not a soldier in the U.S. Army. According to witnesses, however, Mountebank's intent was clear.
Sometime before 11:00 p.m., Mountebank ordered a drink for an unidentified woman, according to bartender Chase Mixson. The woman rejected the beverage, telling Mountebank that she “[doesn't] get involved with Army guys,” when sources say he first claimed to be a Certified Public Accountant. When asked for details about his job and where he works, Mountebank became “belligerent and defensive, changing his story on the fly.” It was then that Mixson began to take note of Mountebank's feeble performance.
“This guy was throwing out phrases like 'annual filings this,' and 'taxable income that', stuff anyone hears in movies or on TV. But when he couldn't come up with the location for his office, or a name for the receptionist, I knew something was up. This guy had to be an impostor,” Mixson said.
Mixson, a prior-service soldier from the 82nd Airborne Infantry Division, had dealt with poser before, and knows many of the indicators.
"First of all, he was wearing a pair of Asics running shoes—the ones widely available at any Post Exchange—with blue jeans. He had on a TapOut shirt,” another indicator by itself, according to Mixson, “but get this: it was tucked in. It was clear to me he just didn't know how to wear any of it.”
After the first woman lost interest, Mountebank left the bar to smoke in the parking lot, although smoking is permitted inside. He returned to his seat at approximately 11:30 p.m., witnesses say, when he found himself next to a different woman. This time, he tried a more subtle approach.
“This guy came in, took the seat next to me, and asked if I'd like a drink. I said yes, and he introduced himself. He asked me what I do, and I told him I'm a waitress,” recalls Amy Slattern. “So I asked him the same thing, expecting him to say he was a soldier.”
Instead, Mountebank changed his story.
“He said he was a stock broker. I'd never met a stock broker before, but I was pretty sure we don't have any of those in Fayetteville, North Carolina. So I asked him more about it.” According to Slattern, Mountebank's responses were nonsensical and contradictory.
“He said he used to be based out of Wall Street in Washington, but I knew that was in New York. Then he said he did so well, that they were letting him into Special Finances. Everyone knows you have to get selected for Special Finances; you can't just pass a course.”
Behind the bar, Mixson had heard enough. “I was about to go get the bouncer when the faker asked to pay off his tab. I rang him up with the standard 10 percent off for active duty, when he tries to tell me he wants no military discount!” For Mixson, that was the last straw. “I went and got one of the cops that hangs out in the parking lot looking for drunk drivers. I told 'em there was a customer inside trying to cheat his tab, and they did the rest.”
Fayetteville Police Sergeant Mike Ollar was on the scene.
“I entered the premises, whereupon I located the individual in question. He was dressed in casual, non-military garb, and had a cooperative demeanor. A search of his person revealed an apparent military-issue I.D. Card, one set of Dog Tags, and a pair of sand-colored briefs-style underwear concealed under his clothing.”
Although possession of those items is not criminal, Sergeant Ollar did take Mountebank into custody, after taking witness statements from the crowd inside.
“I arrested the suspect, and charged him with criminal act of Identity Fraud, for trying to falsify his identity for personal gain.”
"I guess now he's 'based out of' Fayetteville Detention Center," quipped Slattern.
Not everyone in the bar was pleased with the arrest, however. One group of five men sitting in the corner were upset, claiming the bar had "a vendetta against soldiers," and complaining, "now we've got to split the cab fare five ways, instead of six." One was heard to ask, "how are we going to explain this to First Sergeant?"
Wiping down the bar, Mixson just shook his head.
“It's a shame, too. If he'd just been honest from the start, everyone here would have probably just thanked him for his service.”