Wanted Army impersonator arrested in Deadhorse

Posted: Sunday, August 29, 2010

FAIRBANKS - A man who served prison time for impersonating an Army officer at the scene of an Oklahoma bridge collapse has been arrested in the North Slope community of Deadhorse.

William J. Clark, 37, had outstanding warrants in five states, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported Saturday.

The director of the North Star Council on Aging contacted Fairbanks police earlier this week after Clark displayed a handgun. Though Clark posed as a military police officer, the woman told police she thought he was mentally ill or a jail escapee.

Despite the outstanding warrants, Fairbanks police let Clark go because he did not show up as a convicted felon in a statewide database. A national database was not checked until it was too late.

A hunter who read a newspaper article about Clark contacted police, reporting that he met a man in military fatigues who fit Clark's description, said Fairbanks police Sgt. Eric Jewkes.

The man believed to be Clark mentioned he was going to Deadhorse, more than 400 miles north of Fairbanks. North Slope Borough police found Clark at the Prudhoe Bay Hotel on Friday and he was arrested without incident, Jewkes said.

Clark is expected to be flown back to Fairbanks within the next few days.

Clark has a history of impersonating Army officers, most notably after the 2002 collapse of the Interstate 40 bridge over the Arkansas River in Oklahoma - an accident that killed 14 people.

Clark spent 2 1/2 days posing as an Army officer, delivering orders to police and FBI agents and even performing media interviews before disappearing. He later pleaded guilty to impersonating an Army officer and received a 70-month federal prison sentence.

A prosecutor said at the time Clark staged the ruse to obtain food, clothing, a pickup and other items.

Shortly after leaving prison in 2007, Clark called a Russian embassy claiming to be part of a U.S. Special Forces squad planning to assassinate Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Clark reportedly told investigators after the incident that he is mentally ill and has no military experience.

In February 2008, Seattle police pulled over Clark because his vehicle lacked license plates. A military uniform was found in the car and Clark claimed to be a military police officer.

Clark's most recent stint in jail ended in August 2009, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Earlier this week, a Davenport, Iowa, television station reported that Clark is suspected of passing a bad check at a computer store in April. The man who passed the check reportedly said he needed a laptop for his deployment to Afghanistan.

Fairbanks police also are investigating Clark as a suspect in several cases of bad checks being passed off around the city, Jewkes said. Similar fraud charges are anticipated in Juneau.

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