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Opinion | How One Man Conned the Beltway

Dr. Keshavarz-Nia, however, has not been charged with any crime. While the identity of the apparent Justice Department lawyer remains buried in the secret history of the task force, what is clear is that Mr. Courtney had very effectively and very swiftly defused the threat.

But with Blue Canopy still demanding its nearly $2 million, Mr. Courtney needed a godsend. According to a civil suit filed against him and Mr. Keith, he found one in Matthew Milstead, a Beltway investor.

The government, Mr. Courtney told Mr. Milstead, was about to seize control of Blue Canopy “due to instances of malfeasance” by senior executives. “The B.C. Initiative,” the fake spy called this invented scenario. There was, however, one obstacle that company lawyers could exploit — a payment dispute between the federal government and Blue Canopy. An outstanding bill needed to be paid or else the company could indefinitely ward off the seizure.

As outlined in the suit, he appealed to Mr. Milstead as a patriot, and as a businessman: In return for Mr. Milstead’s supplying the $1,933,500 that was owed to Blue Canopy, his investment firm, Westfields, would receive a federal contract authorizing a payment of $2,555,380 within 30 days. Mr. Courtney was dangling a month’s profit of about $600,000 — and, best of all, the money would be contractually guaranteed by the United States of America.

It was a deal too good to turn down. And as things turned out, too good to be true.

With Mr. Milstead’s help, Tim Clark, the co-founder of Capefirst Funding, quickly put together a consortium of investors, and Mr. Milstead signed the contract about a week later in the Riverside SCIF. With Mr. Courtney and Mr. Keith watching, a man representing himself as a government contracting officer executed the agreement, which, according to the civil suit, bore Department of Defense identifiers and inscriptions. Mr. Milstead was not allowed to retain a copy of the contract because, Mr. Courtney explained, his company did not possess a “facility clearance,” as the safe used to store classified documents is known.

But Mr. Milstead’s cautious investors at Capefirst were not prepared to release the $1.9 million without seeing a written government contract.

Mr. Keith and Mr. Milstead met again and Mr. Keith delivered to Mr. Milstead an unclassified “notification of award.” It was again written on Defense Department stationery and specified the amount to be paid: $2,555,380. It was, the suit says, signed by a contracting officer named Glenn Nelson — a Courtney alias.

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