Paul H. Lemmen, one of the most infamous matchstick men in America, is at it again — but this time, he’s passing himself off as a “chaplain” to the III-Percenter militia movement. It’s not the first time that Lemmen has tried presenting himself as a religious and/or military leader with a right wing political flavor; in fact, wearing uniforms and playing priest are his two favorite scams. But this time, he seems to have associated himself with exactly the kind of people he is supposed to avoid while on parole — and that could prove to be a problem for him.
A long record of fraud
Lemmen has convictions dating to the mid-80s for writing worthless checks, but he began his bullshit-artist career with wild claims about membership in the Irish Republican Army, then transitioned to lies about serving in Vietnam. Occupied Iraq being rife with corrupt, no-bid contracting deals, Lemmen saw an opening to enlarge on his false personas and stolen valor. Hyping his meager IT skills, he won a job with a company called Blue Iraq. But unlike too many criminal contractors, Lemmen was arrested in 2006 by the US Army Criminal Investigation Division for embezzlement and impersonating a general officer. Upon his return to the United States, Lemmen was promptly caught impersonating an Air Force general, this time at a military funeral. Held without bond and convicted of fraud in 2007, Lemmen was released in 2010 — and looked to the internet for his next marks.
By the middle of 2011, Lemmen had discovered a new hunting ground for victims at The Right Planet, a conservative political blog. “Willem Van Bever” became a valued member of the community before he started begging for donations with claims of poor health. Two weeks after he was finally outed and banned from the website in time for Christmas, Lemmen started his own blog, An Ex-Con’s View, in which he claimed to have seen the light and changed his ways.
But it didn’t take long for Lemmen to glom onto a new controversy in a bid for attention and personal gain. Adding extra drama to the Brett Kimberlin blogwar, during 2012 he claimed victimization by all sides in turn, finally repudiating his words a year later. Then he claimed to have been moved into a nursing home with cancer, and once again begged for donations. Now miraculously “cured” of a second dubious illness, Lemmen may have found another rich vein of lucre in the militia movement.
Scamming the godly III-Percenter ‘patriots’
Although he has claimed to be a priest and even an Orthodox bishop before, there is exactly zero evidence that Paul Lemmen was ever ordained by any ministry, or has ever received an education in divinity. Lemmen always relies on his command of terminology to pull off these grifts, which come undone as soon as he is pressed hard by an informed questioner. Now titling himself “Friar,” Lemmen has a fake church mission website; the PayPal donations button in his sidebar sends money directly to his firstname.lastname@example.org email address. He has used this website to pass himself off as a man of the cloth.
Lemmen has also started running a III Chaplain Corps blog which is associated with the III Percent Society for America. That organization belongs to a man named Christian Kerodin, whom Lemmen apparently approached a couple of months ago when the III-Percenters got their panties in a bunch over something I said. Kerodin claims that his organization is applying for 501(c)(4) status while he collects donations, but there is plenty of reason to doubt him, as he has his own history of fraud and sketchy dealings under his birth name: Christian Hyman.
Although Hyman was just a heating and air conditioning repairman, in 2003 he tried to cash in on terrorism fears by extorting top mall CEOs in the Washington, DC area, threatening to mention them unfavorably in his alarmist reports on mall security unless they paid for his consulting services as an ‘expert.’ Federal agents also found a sawed-off shotgun in his apartment. Convicted of extortion and firearms charges in 2004, he served 30 months in prison. After release, he had his name legally changed to Kerodin in a bid to escape his past.
As near as I can tell, Hyman next appeared on the public radar early last year as one of the key players in The Citadel, a proposed 2-3,000 acre real estate development for “patriots” in rural Idaho. Stephen Colbert joked about this scheme, which smells incredibly scammy and will probably never actually happen.
The criticism is sparked by the fact that one of the key players linked to the unlikely-sounding venture is three-time convicted felon Christian Allen Kerodin, a Maryland contractor who has apparently used various aliases and whose birth name was Christian Hyman. His wife or partner, Holly Ann Kerodin, has been involved in questionable charity, counseling, publishing and other ventures that have failed, various critics say.
Citadel is now accepting $208 “application fees” for Patriot applicants, who must pass a screening test to be accepted in the community Kerodin and his partners say they are planning. “Marxists, Socialists, Liberals and Establishment Republicans will likely find that life in our community is incompatible with their existing ideology and preferred lifestyles,” its website says.
Paul Lemmen is still on parole
Paul Lemmen is not supposed to be associating with felons like Christian Hyman/Kerodin — especially if further flimflammery is in the offing, which appears to be the case here. I suspect the long list of ritual items he asks his “mission” blog readers to supply is actually an inducement to send money, since many of them are not the sort of items that people have lying around as spares. Perhaps Lemmen thinks that religion, like politics, offers a risk-free scam; if so, he is sorely mistaken, because this is the sort of thing that federal parole officers can and do investigate. It will not take long for an officer of average intellect to confirm that Lemmen’s “mission” is not sanctioned by any Orthodox church.
Like any “leaderless” movement, patriot organization is a huckster act. It is not hard to maintain — even if, like these folks, you have had your gun rights revoked due to felonies. As demonstrated by the great fizzling of recent rallying efforts by these “organizations” during the “American Spring” and Summer’s border crisis, the III Percenter movement is really just a culture characterized by online extremist speech. Like any good operator, Paul Lemmen can master the lingo and the proper tone with very little effort; all he sees are easy marks.
I have contacted Mr. Lemmen’s supervising parole officer for comment and will update this post if they respond.
Update: this post originally had the wrong screenshot from an interview with Christian Hyman/Kerodin. I apologize for the error.