Jack Idema, accused of torturing Afghans, pops up in Mexico

The (Raleigh) News & ObserverSeptember 7, 2010 

North Carolina's own walking parody of U.S. foreign policy is at it again.

This time Mexico is the stage for veteran con man Jonathan Keith "Jack" Idema.

In the 1990s Idema went to prison for 58 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy and collected dozens of lesser charges such as writing worthless checks and assault on a female. Idema sued CBS and Steven Spielberg's studio, claiming a movie starring George Clooney was an unauthorized version of his life story.

Then he hightailed it to Afghanistan, where he reinvented himself for the international media as a sunglasses-wearing, AK-47-toting counterterrorism expert who boasted of shadowy U.S. and Afghan government connections. He peddled things such as body guard services and videotapes of alleged al-Qaida training exercises and was quoted in a host of admiring stories.

Eventually though, he was arrested by Afghan police along with other members of a rag-tag group he called Task Force Saber 7 and charged with running a private jail and torturing innocent Afghans there.

The Afghan government commuted his sentence in 2007 after three years in prison.

Now local media on the Caribbean coast of Mexico is reporting that Idema is barricaded in a turreted house — which he has dubbed Casa Blanca — because police want to question him about allegations that he held a woman against her will and assaulted her, among other accusations.

Headlines in Mexico refer to Idema as Rambo, and one story notes that he now refers to himself as "Black Jack."

Idema didn't return phone calls or e-mail messages seeking comment. Guillermo Torres, an attorney in Mexico who said he is working for Idema, said he couldn't talk about the allegations without Idema's permission.

New Jersey attorney John Edwards Tiffany, who has represented Idema, said he didn't believe there was any truth to the stories about his former client being barricaded.

"This is Jack Idema we're talking about," Tiffany said. "You think something would be going on like that and CNN wouldn't already have a satellite truck there? The major news outlets would be camped out."

Author Robert Young Pelton, who wrote a chapter about Idema in his book "Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror," said Idema gave himself the new nickname Black Jack when he swapped one fantasy for another with the move from Afghanistan to Mexico. He has grown his hair and beard long, raised a pirate flag over the house and begun renting out boats, using images from "Pirates of the Caribbean" in his advertising.

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