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I-TEAM: Stolen valor, missing money

The I-Team looks into another complaint of stolen valor, but this time a man is accused of convincing people to invest in a phony business.
March 20, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
The ABC7 I-Team is investigating another complaint of "stolen valor", but in this case, a Sonoma County man has taken it a step further. He's accused of using a phony military background to convince people to invest in a phony business.

Dan Noyes has exposed several fake Navy SEALs over the years, but investors say this man used all sorts of stories -- that he's a Navy SEAL, a Special Forces sniper, a member of the Coast Guard, and the Army Corps of Engineers. All of it, not true. And now, law enforcement is investigating.

Chuck Lyman, 53, really didn't want to answer Noyes' questions when he caught up to him outside a Sonoma County grocery store.

Lyman told Noyes, "Get out of here, I got the police on the phone."
Noyes answered, "That's all right, it's a public place. Have the police come."

He did call the police, and tried to cover our camera lens with his hat, saying, "Get out of here, man."

But, an officer told him Noyes had a right to take his picture in public -- and that he couldn't drive his SUV, because of a suspended license.

Instead of answering Noyes' questions, Lyman ignored the officer's order and drove away. What could be so bad that he couldn't discuss it?

Alden Feldon told Marin County Small Claims Court, "For the $6,000 I gave him, he was going to give me $18,000 back."

Chuck Lyman has a small claims case pending against him in Marin County. Feldon says Lyman convinced him he had a deal to buy containers from the Port of Oakland, refurbish them, and sell them to the Army to help bring American troops home from Afghanistan.

That story worked with Feldon and several others, who gave Lyman money to invest. He insisted on cash.

Alden Feldon told Noyes he gave Lyman "$6,000 over time."
Susan Ferrell: "$2,500."
Darlene Stone: "$17,000."
Beth Mullen: "$30,000."

Lyman was able to draw them in, because of his tall tales of military service.

Alden Feldon told Noyes, "He said he had worked in the service and that he was currently employed in the Coast Guard."

Darlene Stone added, "When I first met him, he brought up Navy SEALs and Special Forces."

Susan Ferrell said, "I thought it was the Army Corps of Engineers, and he was like an ex-Navy SEAL."

Lyman's records that Noyes obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show all of that is not true. He spent six years with the Army National Guard Reserves as a mechanic -- "no active duty".

American Legion District Commander Eddie Ramirez told Noyes, "It's a slap in the face to me and all other veterans, not only the other veterans, but the active duty folks, too."

Ramirez said exaggerating stories of military service, and then scamming people out of money, is an insult to the memories of those who fought and died. He said, "It's hard for us all, because we don't want veterans to be represented that way."

Noyes questioned Lyman: "You claimed that you were a Navy SEAL."
Lyman: "Nah, you're a bunch of s__t. You can believe them if you want."

Lyman's own texts show he claimed another Navy SEAL and "three of our special forces buddies" were also investing in the container deal.

And he used his own family in voicemails he left. In effect, if they were investing, the deal must be good.

On a voicemail, Lyman told an investor, "A friend of my brother's, they're going to increase, actually, they're going to add some more containers to that order if my brother can do it, so if you're interested in getting a few more, let me know."

Noyes told Lyman, "Chuck, I need to talk to you, several people tell me you scammed them out of money by --"
Lyman: "A bunch of lies."
Noyes: "--by pretending to be a Navy SEAL, working for the Coast Guard, for the Army Corps of Engineers."
Lyman: "Nah, they're just jealous."
Noyes: "They're jealous of what?"
Lyman: "They're jealous because I broke up with my girlfriend and they're like this." [Holds two fingers together.]

Darlene Stone dated Lyman for several years and lived with him at a Greenbrae apartment complex. That's where Lyman found several of his victims; some were Stone's friends.

She told Noyes, "I feel betrayed."

As the scheme began to unravel, Stone demanded Lyman give her and her friends' money back.

Stone: "He told me that he knew people that could take me out if I continued this."
Noyes: "He said that?"
Stone: "Yes, and luckily my girlfriend was on my home phone and she heard what he said."

Stone was able to get a restraining order that keeps Lyman 100 yards away from her until August 2016.

Noyes tracked Lyman to his mother's house in Cotati and approached him in that parking lot.

Noyes: "Was there any plan about the containers, about buying containers from the military?"
Lyman: "They got their money, man, they just want more from me."
Noyes: "They got their money?"
Lyman: "That's right."

Ferrell did get her $2,500 back, after taking Lyman to court. The others are still holding out hope.

Even if he wins his small claims case against Lyman, Feldon tells Noyes he doesn't expect to see any money. But, he hopes this story can serve a greater purpose. Feldon told us, "What I'm hoping partly through this interview is if there's anybody else out there who is engaged with this man in any way, shape or form, be very, very careful."

Marin County prosecutors tell Noyes they looked into the Lyman case, and decided there was "insufficient evidence" to pursue it. But, they only considered one of the victims. After Noyes pointed out the other people with complaints and the paper trail they have, the District Attorney is taking a fresh look at the case. We'll let you know what happens.


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