Marcia Parker, mother of a student at North Atlanta, said the fake recruiter, who identifies himself as U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ransom and whose first name is not known, was introduced to her daughter at school and was told he would help with ROTC college scholarship applications. Parker declined to give her daughter’s name.
“He basically said there was a new program the Army was instituting. It was his job to recruit students, help them get scholarship applications completed, and then make recommendations to his boss as to who would get the scholarships,” Parker said. “I’m very concerned because he came to our house. He has his computer, we filled things out and he took forms from us. … He took her ROTC certificates and awards.”
She said the only thing she found odd about Ransom was the fact that he was using dipping tobacco in her home.
“That’s the only thing I thought was unbecoming of an officer in the U.S. military. They would not do that,” Parker said.
She said she does not think they gave him either of their Social Security numbers, but he did get her daughter’s last four digits.
“I can’t figure out what his game was,” Parker said. “My major concern was this person was met at her school; she was told to talk to him. This wasn’t someone we met on the street.”
Other schools involved are Atlanta Public Schools’ Grady High, Fulton County’s Westlake High and Dawson County High School.
Parker said ever since she found out the truth about Ransom, she has done the “digging.”
“To this day, no one has called me and given me an update. No one from APS or anywhere,” she said.
She said Torbert, Atlanta Public Schools’ Army/JROTC director, told Parker he never asked for Ransom’s ID card.
“He said, ‘No I didn’t think I needed to vet this person,’” Parker said.
And one father of a North Atlanta High School student, who wishes to remain anonymous, said Ransom, who is based out of Fort Stewart, met his son at a JROTC event, called Saber Day, on campus Oct. 12.
“He approached APS officials that day last fall and said, ‘I’m a liaison from Georgia State, and I’m trying to help find officers from inner-city schools,’” the father said. “They didn’t have any vetting process. They gave him license to get into schools.”
North Atlanta High School Principal Howard “Gene” Taylor said, “He was at the JROTC event at which our students attended, and that person made contact with some of our students and received personal information.”
The father said Ransom told parents and school liaisons he would take care of helping the students find military scholarships, and visited classrooms to speak about joining the military.
“My son came home and said this lieutenant from the Army will be at the school and wants me to bring all my Social Security stuff with me,” he said. “My wife and I went up there and spent an hour and a half with the mythical fool.”
He said Ransom told a “great story” of his years growing up in a military family and attending the University of Oregon and joining the ROTC.
However, when the father called the university to ask about Ransom, there was no record of his attendance or ROTC membership.
He also said Ransom held a field day at Grady High, where 14 students were participating in pushups, a half-mile run and other boot camp-type activities.
The scholarship application deadline, Jan. 10, was nearing, he said, and he could not get in touch with Ransom.
“He had never gotten back to me and gave me a false email address,” the father said. “He called me at 10:30 [p.m.] from a Colorado number. He said, ‘I’m all over it.’”
There was no trace of his son’s documents when called his son’s future school, he said.
He and Parker both said they were thankful they inquired about the progress of the applications, because otherwise, neither of their children would have met the application deadline.
“It makes me angry,” Parker said. “First of all, we’re talking about the future of my child and her means of going to school through the ROTC program.”
Army officials were notified of the situation and visited Grady High to present students and faculty with a photographic lineup and everybody picked out the same person.
“It’s a series of events based on what they’ve done to identify and take action,” said Atlanta Public Schools spokesman Stephen Alford. “The person who’s been impersonating a military officer apparently is a soldier. … He is being investigated and charged with impersonating an officer under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”
Alford described the situation as a “strange story” and no one knows what Ransom’s motivation was to pose as a recruiter.
Alford said he thinks Ransom may have been asked for background information before coming into the schools.
“Since this incident, we’ve tightened security measures and you have to check in at the main office,” he said.
Alford said he is unsure of how many times Ransom visited North Atlanta or the other schools.
“Nothing led to believe anyone’s identities were compromised,” he said.
Ransom’s personal computer has been confiscated by the Army and nothing incriminating was found as of yet, Alford said.
“I am being told that this investigation is being handled by the Army CID,” Atlanta Police Department’s Officer John Chafee wrote in an email.
He wrote the department’s investigation of Ransom does not currently have sufficient evidence to charge him with a crime.