As we reported in this previous story, A.J. Dicken was about to use his phony Navy SEAL background to cash in with a piece of a $300 million contract in the nation of Burundi, but as we've learned a real Navy SEAL was working to expose his lies.
Dicken sold his phony life story as a Navy SEAL for $50,000, convinced two doctors to give him hundreds of thousands more for a new security firm, then had his sights set on his biggest payday yet. Enter Don Shipley.
"If I get one more phone call asking me to verify if A.J. Dicken was ever a Navy SEAL, I'm going to take this grenade, pull the pin and blow myself up!" said Shipley.
Shipley is a retired Navy SEAL who runs a training camp in Virginia. He also has access to the official database -- the names of every Navy SEAL. Shipley spends much of his time exposing the phonies on a popular YouTube channel, but the video he posted about Dicken didn't seem to slow him down.
"How he turned that around and had people convinced for more money is, 'I posted that myself because I've killed so many people in Central and South America, Afghanistan, all over the world, they're looking for me, so I put that up to throw them off my trail,'" said Shipley.
Doctors Brian Romaneschi and Greg Ginn gave Dicken almost $400,000 each for his new venture, Global Security and Logistics. He was able to talk his way into the World Sports Alliance -- an organization that works closely with the United Nations in developing countries. Dicken became the WSA's security chief on a $300 million contract. The plan is to build a waste-to-energy plant in the African nation of Burundi -- a project that would have a ripple effect.
"And we were talking about levels of money where you could really put money into immunization programs and really have a huge significant impact on people's health," said Romaneschi.
In September, Dicken attended meetings at the United Nations as WSA's new security chief. And in October, he organized his own trip to Burundi, bringing a staff of eight along. They tell me the trip was a mess from the start.
Marketing Director Carol Roberts: "I was like, 'This guy has never been overseas in his life.'"
Noyes: "Really, why?"
Roberts: "Even simple things like going through customs and showing your passport, he was clueless."
Noyes: "Was the drinking constant with A.J.?"
Matt Roesner: "Constant. I don't think there was a moment when he was not drunk the entire trip."
Dicken hired pilot Roesner to head flight operations. He says after they arrived in Burundi, it was clear no meetings had been set up. They were winging it and Dicken's negotiations went far beyond a waste-to-energy plant.
"We show up saying, 'Hey, we want to train your military. Hey we want to come in here and provide you weapons and whatever,' and they're just like, 'Who are you?'" said Roesner.
The head of security for the trip -- a former Marine sniper -- tells me it quickly became clear to those with real military backgrounds that Dicken was a fake. The Marine told us, "We knew it was kind of ridiculous, but we got diplomatic passports, we got all this stuff, so it looked like it was becoming real."
This all began to unravel for Dicken weeks later, when he opened a bank account on the island of Antigua for Global Security Funds, but tried to set it up so only he could access the money. The board fired him.
Noyes: "And his response?"
Romaneschi: "He turned white as a sheet. He basically walked out of the restaurant, halfway out through the meeting and I think since then they've more or less been on the run."
"They kept a truck and a Jeep parked right here for the last couple weeks and now they're gone," said Bob Silvestri, Dicken's neighbor.
I was able to track Dicken from his house outside Carson City. Over the past two months, he took his RV to his parents' home in Southern California, across the country to the Atlanta area and back where I caught up to him in his parents' neighborhood. Dicken just gave a few blanket denials.
Dicken: "I don't have a Navy SEAL background."
Noyes: "You told a lot of people that didn't you?"
Dicken: "No. I did not."
The most pressing question Dicken faces now is over possession of those guns seen on the promotional videos he made. Dicken is a felon -- records from Riverside County show convictions for burglary, receiving stolen property, and child concealing.
The Carson City Sheriff's Office confirms they, along with the FBI and ATF want to question him. The saga of Dicken, the phony Navy SEAL, resonates for those who actually served in the military.
"It's just wrong, people put their lives on the line every day and people die every day for this country and when somebody fakes that, it's upsetting to anybody who's ever served and should be to every American," said the Marine we spoke with.
The doctors are trying to move forward with the Burundi project without Dicken. They have a meeting set for next month to introduce their new security chief to the WSA. When Dicken took off, his former partners found a treasure trove of documents including receipts for various phony documents, receipts for various phony documents, including a Navy SEAL Team ID and all those awards: the Silver Star, Purple Heart and Navy Cross. Anyone can just buy them off the Internet and so did Dickens.
You can see one of those receipts here