MIA Facts Site

Operation Wildfire:
Another Scam At Work


Guestbook Message:  Richard Barker

On 10 May 2002, the following item was posted to the MIA Facts Site Guestbook.  In this message, the sender -- "Richard Barker" -- mentions the names of several MIA "activists."   I have inserted into his message links to articles about these individuals; the remainder of this article describes Barker's MIA scam.


Richard Barker


I have reviewed your web site as well as Marks and found both to be disturbing. In order for those who may read this entry to understand why I say this I will provide you with a little background. Mark Smith and his Lawyer called me, several times, in 1986 concerning his law suit and hearings, I remember him as a gentleman and patriot. I have also spoken with Red McDaniels several times over the years and found him to be completely trustworthy, never giving me any misinformation or leaking anything to anyone we had discussed. I have also spoken with Bill Hendon on the phone and had a meeting with him in Bangkok in February of 1995 at the Windsor Hotel. He to was helpful and I found him to be a trustworthy gentleman. I met Bobby Garword once in 1984 and in once 1985. I have also spoken with Bo Gritz on various occasions as well as Scott Weekly who I consider a friend. Mr. Schlatter I do not know you. I think you must have entered this issue well after my departure from it. I do not agree with your analysis but I also do not agree with Marks nor can I prove either of you to be true or false. Although I respect your right to air your views in an open forum I find this disheartening. I’m an ex-pat living in a country that does not follow rule of law, living in a country with one party rule, rampant corruption, no free speech, a country where news reports are suddenly blacked out and people fear the authorities. A country where it citizens know nothing of Cambodia except its great ruler Pol Pot was our brother number one a gentle and caring man concerned for the care of his people. A country where the majority of the population wants change but doesn’t know where to look for it. Look to the west? Come on the west rewards our powers with Olympic games status, the west issues visas almost exclusively to party members and student union members ignoring the masses and businessmen interested in change, the west even takes our hard-line upcomers and admits them to Harvard. The west cow-tows to our powers demand for money when bombed in Belgrade and loses face with argued spy plane crashes not to mention the west leaving it servicemen behind or maybe not who can you believe. I would hope you both with try to set examples of unity and present facts without slander. Its hard for me to explain agreeing to disagree to people and friends who live in black and white world (sic).


Operation Wild Fire

I had forgotten about Richard Barker until he left the message on the Guestbook.   Let's review the bidding on Mr. Barker.

Claims by Wildfire

My contact with Barker was not direct -- I have never met or spoken with the man.   However, I know what he was up to in the MIA issue; he came to the attention of the DIA POW-MIA Office in early 1986 when he was involved in a caper called "Operation Wild Fire."  "Wild Fire" was  a group of private citizens who claimed they had credible information that a number of American POWs captured during the war in SEAsia were being held in the People's Republic of China near the border with the far northwest regions of Vietnam. If my memory has not failed me, the number of alleged POWs was somewhere around 400.  My uncertain memory is that the location where they allegedly were being detained was near the border with either Cao Bang or Ha Giang Province, NVN.

Who Paid for Wildfire

I don't know for certain where the "Wild Fire" operators obtained their funding.   From all appearances, the participants who were doing the leg work -- the only participants who were identified publicly -- did not have sufficient financial resources of their own to carry out the activities they engaged in.  I have always believed that they had a silent backer who had deep pockets, but I have never seen any hard evidence to prove this.  I also have always believed that the silent backer was an influential person who had significant political pull.  Circumstantial evidence of this is the fact that the group managed to persuade a member of the Canadian Parliament and the Canadian Defense Attaché in Beijing to facilitate their travel to China and help them obtain access to senior Chinese political and military
officials.  I can think of only a small number of people who had that kind of money and influence and who were willing to use it to pursue reports of American POWs in Asia, but who mistrusted official accounting efforts and who were gullible enough to trust losers like Baker and his colleagues. 

Ross Perot is one of these who may have helped Wild Fire -- in fact, when Perot visited the DIA POW-MIA Office, he asked a lot of questions about Wild Fire and seemed to know a lot about it.  The Texas lawyer, Douglas Pierce, whose son (James or John) was lost when the oil exploration ship Glomar Java Sea went down in a storm in the South China Sea in October 1983, was flim-flammed -- possibly for money -- by "Wild Fire."  Pierce trotted off to China at least once with members of the"Wild Fire" group who apparently had persuaded him that his son might be among the alleged American POWs being held in China.  Perot or Pierce either one -- or both -- had the financial resources and were gullible enough to support a scam such as Wild Fire -- and each of them supported other scams.

Scumbags Galore

Operation Wild Fire involved some of the scummiest characters to ever haunt the MIA issue.   Barker was a resident of Las Vegas.  One of the Vietnamese participants in the "Wild Fire" caper was a guy known as Ha Jimmy (aka:  Jimmy Ha), a "minister" at several Vietnamese churches in California.  Another Vietnamese participant was an immigrant named Han Vi--an untrustworthy fellow if ever there was one -- Han Vi was the source of more than one phony POW-MIA story.

17 pounds of Thai Stick

After the "Wild Fire" group had run out of steam (March 1986), Barker boarded a commercial airliner in Honolulu bound for Great Falls, Montana.  Shortly before he boarded the plane an anonymous caller telephoned an office of the DEA and tipped them that Barker was carrying a few sticks of Thai marijuana (17 pounds as it turned out -- a bit much for personal use). DEA officers met Barker as he de-planed in Great Falls, and found the marijuana on him--as I recall, in his briefcase.

Several months later, DIA analysts spoke with the Federal prosecutor who prosecuted the case.  He told us that the amount of marijuana was not significant, but was sufficient under existing sentencing guidelines to get Barker a mandatory year in jail if he went to trial and was convicted.  The prosecutor offered Barker a plea bargain to avoid diverting resources from other more serious cases his office was working on.   He strongly encouraged Barker to enter a no-contest plea in return for a commitment to be sentenced to time already served in pre-trial confinement and a relatively short period of probation.  Barker refused the plea-bargain arrangement and insisted [ the prosecutor's words ] on pleading guilty and taking the mandatory year in the slammer!

Spread the Word

Shortly after receiving the mandatory one year, Barker began mailing copies of a thick (approximately one inch thick) packet of documents to a long list of public officials (e.g., The President, Vice-President, Secretary of Defense, ...) charging that the CIA and DIA had set him up for the bust in Great Falls to prevent him and his colleagues from rescuing American POWs. His packet also contained information that he claimed showed that the CIA and/or DIA had murdered a former CIA or Department of State officer named Daniels.   [ Note:  this is a favorite story of the MIA crowd.  These are the facts:  A CIA officer named Daniels -- who was stationed under State Department cover at the Embassy in Bangkok -- had a party at his apartment where there was a lot of drinking.  Someone did not turn off a kerosene heater in the apartment and Daniels was asphyxiated in his sleep.  Thai police and Embassy security investigated and declared the death accidental.  The MIA cult has developed a huge myth that this guy knew too much about US POWs in SEAsia and he was killed as part of the cover-up.  This was one of  Ross Perot's favorite stories -- Perot believed the tale, of course, he would believe anything.    ]  I do not know what Barker hoped to accomplish by mailing out the Wild Fire packet -- he may have hoped that his alleged knowledge of US POWs would get him a pardon or some other benefit.  Didn't work.

What's He doing Now?

As far as I know, Barker served his year in jail and went on about his business -- whatever that is.  According to his note on my Guestbook, he is living as an ex-patriate American in a foreign country -- from his description he appears to be living in China.   One wonders how he pays the rent -- in view of his background of involvement in drug smuggling and MIA scams .  .  .

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DIA Conversations with US Attorney
and Others Regarding Richard Barker
( 1986 )

The following is the text of a memo prepared by the DIA analyst who talked with US law enforcement officials after Barker's conviction in Montana and after he started passing out the Wild Fire packets.


MEMORANDUM FOR RECORD                         31 August 1986

 SUBJECT:     Richard J. Barker (U)

 REFERENCE: Phonecons, 28 and 29 August 1986, various Federal officials Great Falls, Montana, and R. Destatte, SAB.

 1. (U) According to written statement attributed to Richard J. Barker and forwarded to DIA/V0-PW by member of Senator Murkowski’s staff Barker was arrested by U.S. DEA Officers in Great Falls, Montana, on 23 March 1986, and confined for a period of time in the Cascade County, Montana, Jail. A telephone call to the Cascade County Sheriff’s office, Records Section, ph: (406) 761-6842, confirmed the following:

          NAME: Richard J. Barker.
3 June 1952; Amsterdam, NY.
          SSAN: XXX-XX-XXX
          ADDRESS:       C/0 wife, Sharon Barker, Hawaii
         ARREST:        23 March 1986, by DEA officers. Charged with possession of dangerous drugs with intent to sell. Confined to             Cade County Jail. Released to Federal Marshal 13 May 1986.
          REMARKS:       Additional information available from DEA or Federal Marshal’s office, Great Falls~ Montana, PH:

 2. (U) U.S. District Attorney, Carl Rostad, and Deputy U.S. Marshal, Bruce Selin, telephoned DIA/VO-PW to confirm nature of our interest in Barker, inquire what information we might have that can assist Federal officials handling Barker’s appeal of his drug trafficing conviction, and determine what information they may be able to provide that could assist our office. Following is summary of topics discussed:

 a.       On 26 March 1986, Barker pleaded guilty in a plea bargain agreement to charge of transporting 17lbs of marijuana. U.S. District Attorney described it as “Thai stick,” an especially potent form of marijuana. Barker received a sentence of 5 years in jail with 4 years suspended. Barker is currently appealing the sentence.

 b.            U.S. DA noted that Barker submitted a lengthy affidavit purporting to describe his efforts to obtain the release of U.S. PWs from Asia and claiming that he was framed on the drug traffic charge in order to prevent him from obtaining the release of the PWs. U.S. DA will send us a copy of the affidavit. I agreed to send him a copy of’ the unclassified statements attributed to Barker and furnished to us by Senator Murkowski’s staff.

 c.            U.S. PA has some indications that Barker was engaged in attempted fraud. I summarized what information we have about Barker’s involvement with Mr. Douglas Pierce and Mr. Pierce’s demonstrated vulnerability to con artists. I volunteered to send US PA some newsclippings and unclassified background related to B. Lilac’s defrauding Mr. Pierce of $46K. Also volunteered to review our files to see if we had any indications that Barker might have been attempting the same thing. I also noted potential Foreign Counterintelligence implications and NSC interest in this case; but I did not elaborate beyond noting that we may request FBI to look into some aspects of the ease.

 d.          Additional information, presumably much of it derogatory, concerning Barker can be obtained by request through appropriate channels concerning Barker. Following Federal officers have information concerning Barker:

                   Ted Macelhaney (phonetic): U.S. Probation Officer, Great Falls, Montana. Macelhaney conducted extensive background investigation of Barker.

                   Steven Ward: U.S. Probation Officer, Las Vegas, Nevada; phone: (702) 388-6428. Barker currently living in Las Vegas.

                       Larry Barnes: Chief of DEA office, Great Falls, Montana, phone: (406) 452-7282. In charge of investigation of Barker’s drug transporting charges.

 e.           Barker is currently out of prison on an appeal bond.

f.           Barker’s current address is Las Vegas Country Club Estates, Las Vegas, Nevada. U.S. DA characterized this as a high rent address; however, he also noted that Barker appeared to be without any apparent wealth. According to U.S. DA, Barker was defended by a court appointed attorney at public expense when he was tried for the drug transporting charge in Montana.

 g.           Barker’s current employer is “Nevada Annies’ International,” phone: (XXX) XXX-XXXX.


Senior Analyst