By Daniel Silliman
In 33 minutes, the last of the lie was stripped away. Where once even his ex-wife and closest friend believed it, Douglas Yutaka Rhoades confessed to the lie in court, pleading guilty to impersonating an FBI agent.
Rhoades, a 42-year-old Jonesboro man, told those closest to him he was undercover with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, tasked to investigate cyber crimes, child pornography and rogue agents.
He had a metal badge with his photo on it, signed by bureau founder J. Edgar Hoover, and marked with a large, gold shield. He had a Glock handgun he put in the console of his minivan every day when he left for work. He had DVDs of child pornography, bags of candy and children's clothes -- all, he assured his family, part of the investigation.
He "did falsely assume and pretend to be an officer," according to the federal indictment, but the elaborate lie fell apart early in 2008.
Rhoades' ex-wife, who lived with him at their Sherwood Drive home, became uncomfortable with his relationship with a 10-year-old girl, and called police. She had discovered a bag of clothes, with little girl's underwear, pajamas and a bathing suit. She looked in the bag, court records show, and also found condoms and itch-relief cream.
The woman called police to tell them her husband was molesting children, and she told them, too, it was worse, because he was with the FBI.
When detectives at the Clayton County Police Department called the bureau though, it became immediately clear there was something wrong here. A check of records revealed Rhoades didn't work for the FBI, had never worked for the FBI, didn't work for any branch of government, and was actually a security guard.
FBI agents said the 42-year-old's credentials were clearly fakes. Special Agent Joseph Fonseco said Rhoades' metal badge wasn't even a close fake.
"J. Edgar Hoover doesn't sign our credentials, and to my knowledge, he never did. I don't know J. Edgar, but I know that's not his [signature]," Fonseco testified in court.
On Jan. 24, as he was driving his minivan home, at about 2:30 on that Thursday, Rhoades was arrested on charges of impersonating an officer. The badge, well-worn, was in his back pocket.
A search of the vehicle led the trio of arresting agents to other charges. They found candy, a digital camera, a camcorder, and about 75 DVDs, with titles like "Masturbation," "Web Teens 1," "Web Teens 2," and pictures of naked, prepubescent girls, according to court records.
When the special agents added the charge of child pornography to the federal case, the search expanded to include Rhoades' home, and a third layer of the 42-year-old's secret life emerged.
In the man's personal possessions, investigators found love letters written to little girls. In one, the 42-year-old addressed a Mother's Day card to an 11-year-old, calling her "the mother of my child." In another, he called a 12-year-old girl "my love," "sweetheart," "my angel," my lady," and "little Miss Magic."
The agents also uncovered a video of what they described as a wedding ceremony, between Rhoades and a 10-year-old girl. The ceremony was held in the basement of his Sherwood Drive home, with the man and the girl reading each other vows (the girl struggling to pronounce the longer words), exchanging rings and an 18-second kiss.
Copies of the vows were found underneath Rhoades' handgun in the console of his minivan.
Federal prosecutors said they were particularly troubled by the case, because Rhoades may have used his fake identity to molest prepubescent girls.
"There may be people out there who trusted him because of that representation," U.S. Attorney David E. Nahmias said after the arrest. "It's a disturbing case because we rely on people being able to trust people who say they're law enforcement."
One man, who trusted Rhoades with his daughter, who let the man take his daughter to a theme park in the summertime, said he was shocked by the discovery of the truth.
"I've called him a friend, and "friend" is not a word I bandy about lightly," the father wrote. "Now I find that just about everything the man ever told me about himself and his life was a lie."
The lie crumbled quickly when Rhoades was arrested. Agents said the 42-year-old security guard didn't even try to convince them he really was an undercover agent, but confessed to buying the badge from the Internet for $50.
Rhoades' defense attorney, Jeff Ertel, attempted to argue that the evidence was suspicious, because it had been handled by Rhoades' ex-wife, and he attempted to get evidence and statements suppressed, but the defenses ended this last week.
Standing in Judge Russell G. Vineyard's courtroom, in the Richard B. Russell Federal Building in Atlanta, in a hearing that lasted 33 minutes, Rhoades changed his plea to guilty.
His sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 20, at 2 p.m. He faces a maximum possible sentence of 23 years in federal prison. Molestation charges are still under investigation, and charges could be brought under state law.