Con man, William Micheal Barber, sentenced to three years for creating phony identity
A 53-year-old con man, who has 19 aliases and has wooed women by pretending to be a surgeon, NFL football player or war hero, was sentenced Thursday to three years in state prison for marrying a Wharton woman in 2001 under a phony name and birth date.
William Michael Barber stood in a courtroom in Morristown in an orange jail-issued jumpsuit and barely uttered a word, even when his latest wife, Joyce (Reynolds) Barber, calmly told a judge she believes that Barber will never stop lying.
"If someone steals your car, your furniture, your computer, money can replace it. When someone steals your pride, your dignity, your self-respect ... no amount of money or time the defendant spends in jail can replace your pride, your dignity and your self-respect," the 49-year-old deceived wife told Superior Court Judge Joseph A. Falcone.
William Barber pleaded guilty on Sept. 22 to tampering with public records. He admitted to the judge that he applied on Jan. 5, 2001, for a license to marry Reynolds, whom he met over the Internet in late 2000 and wedded a week after he came to New Jersey. He said he used the fake name James Micheal Barber and added six years to his age for the license.
Reynolds is expected to be in Superior Court again next week to ask a judge to annul the marriage on the basis of fraud. One of her attorneys, Jeffrey R. Pocaro, said he has proof that Barber was still married to a woman named Donna Layne Roberts when he married Reynolds on Jan. 19, 2001, in a ceremony performed by the mayor of Wharton.
In a pre-sentence report prepared for the judge, Barber denied being a bigamist, Falcone said. But the man who said he was born in St. Louis, Mo. admitted to having three wives before Reynolds. He said the last wife divorced him in 1993 while he was serving a sentence for fraud. He claims to have three children.
Falcone said he got a letter from Donna Roberts, a school teacher who claimed that she knew Barber as Christopher James Michael Barber. She wrote that he deserted her on Jan. 11, 2001, leaving behind bounced checks and bankruptcy filings for failed trucking businesses. When they met, Barber was in a wheelchair and had leukemia but miraculously recovered, the judge said.
"He claimed he was healed because of their love," the judge said of Roberts' relationship with Barber.
He said he also heard from Diana Barber, a Missouri resident who cast William Barber as "a habitual, conniving, chronic fraud," who owes her $51,000 in back child support for their son, who is now 18.
Barber had told Reynolds he was a pediatric cardiovascular surgeon taking a sabbatical after his child died. According to the judge, he told another paramour he was a former professional football player.
Morris County Assistant Prosecutor Joseph D'Onofrio said that Barber has been committing fraud-related crimes since 1970. He has convictions in Illinois, Missouri, California, Wisconsin, and Louisiana, with his last prison term six years in Missouri for passing bad checks. D'Onofrio said that Barber tends to seek out "people looking for some connection" in their lives and then preying on them, as he did with Reynolds. He said he does not expect Barber to change, though Reynolds told the court she believes he needs psychological help.
"Only Mr. Barber knows who he is or what he's about,"D'Onofrio said. "There's the saying 'You can't teach an old dog new tricks.' Mr. Barber has committed these tricks his whole life. When he gets out, he'll probably be back to the same thing."
When Barber pleaded in September, he told the judge he got a degree in business administration in 1972 from the University of Missouri. Reynolds told Falcone Thursday she learned the purported education never happened because Barber was in jail in 1972. The judge understood her reference; he had received a letter on Sept. 27 from a woman in Arkansas, whose husband had partnered a few years ago with Barber in forming a fugitive recovery, or bounty-hunting, service to catch bail jumpers. This woman told Falcone that Barber in 1972 was serving a federal sentence in Kansas. Barber had told his bounty-hunting partner he was a war hero, with 30 years of experience in the U.S. Army.
Barber's life with Reynolds started unraveling in June, after his bounty-hunting partner got suspicious about a story Barber told of being arrested for being $50,000 in arrears on child support. Barber had told the partner, who started digging into his past, that he was married to the same woman for decades. This partner, along with Barber's sister Pamela Gaines, were instrumental in getting police to check into Barber's marriage to Reynolds in Wharton.