By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
The handwritten birthday card seemed so sincere.
"My music is an expression of my inner self," it started. "It was a true honor and delight to share it with these incredible musicians. 'Somewhere Along the Way' was written as an expression of searching along the path, the Way--as my studies of the Tao have taken me. Truth is found along the search and recognition of one's path--destiny."
The September 4, 1993, missive ended with a simple request: "Enjoy my music--it's me."
Its author was Andrew Ling, a Phoenix attorney in his mid-30s. He also handed his girlfriend a cassette tape. Ling told Michel Allen that this was his birthday present to her. He titled the tape "My Soul."
Inside the tape box was more handwritten information about the recording. The text said Ling and some jazz superstars had recorded two of the tape's four tunes a few weeks earlier in Oslo, Norway. The other selections, he wrote, came from a May 1988 session at a New York City studio.
The text stated that Ling had co-written three of the selections with jazz saxophonist Michael Brecker. The Ling/Brecker team had produced the recording session and performed on each tune, with Ling on keyboards and Brecker on tenor sax.
Ling added that he'd co-written one song, "Pleasant Surprise," with renowned guitarist Pat Metheny. Metheny had performed on two songs, with Ling's brother, Tim, playing guitar on the other two selections, the notes said.
"Thanks to the incredible musicians who directed schedules, flew across for two days, gave me ideas and tolerated my incessant enthusiasm," Ling concluded. "Special thanks to Michael Brecker, without whose help this project would not have been possible. Thanks for believing in me."
Michel Allen was not impressed by the gift.
"He'd kept saying, 'It's going to be great. You can't get it in any store; you can't buy it in the States,'" she says. "Then he gives me this cheesy tape. I was mad. Then it was, 'Do you know how much it costs to make an album? I'm broke.'"
Allen, a Phoenix woman, had been dating Ling for months. During that time, she says, she'd been amazed by his achievement, the breadth of which he reminded her of daily.
Ling had told Allen and others that he was an agent of the Secret Service, on a first-name basis with presidents. He was a jazz artist who'd hobnobbed with the world's greats.
Michel Allen says Ling attracted her because of whom she thought he was--a physically fit Renaissance man who could be a lot of fun.
She didn't develop doubts about Ling's Secret Service claims until they'd dated for months. After all, he had all the trappings--the distinctive key chain, duffel bag, tee shirts.
None of it is true, and Michel Allen is just one of many people who have been bombarded by Ling's fantastic tales.
He told four people contacted by New Times that he had been on the 1980 U.S. Olympic tae kwon do team. His dreams of competing, however, had been shattered by the U.S. boycott of the Moscow games.
He told a Tucson woman he'd come to George Bush's aid as a Secret Service agent after the early 1992 vomiting incident in Japan. Six other people told New Times that Ling had bragged about being a Secret Service agent.
But Andrew Ling has never been a member of the Secret Service. However, the agency has investigated him for impersonating a Secret Service agent. (For the record, Ling denies ever telling anyone that he has been a member of the Secret Service.)
Ling never was a member of the Olympic tae kwon do team, says a spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee. (Again, he says he never told anyone he was on the team.) The U.S. didn't compete in that sport until 1988.
Ling never composed or recorded with Pat Metheny or Michael Brecker, the musicians' managers say.
Andrew Ling is not a Walter Mitty--not an ordinary, timid individual given to adventurous daydreams as a way of glamorizing a humdrum life. His falsehoods go far beyond the banal, and he has gone so far as to create phony documents--the music liner notes--to bolster his fantasies.
Yet Ling has accomplished many things in his life--and that makes his outlandish stories seem even more inexplicable.
Friends say he does play a mean piano. He speaks at least three languages--English, French and Taiwanese. He is executive producer of an unfinished documentary about the life and times of ex-secretary of state James A. Baker.
And Andrew Mung-Li Ling is an attorney at law, licensed to practice in Arizona since 1985. He works for his father's firm in Phoenix.
Ling appears to be fashioned from the same mold as Darrow "Duke" Tully, an ex-publisher of the Arizona Republic and the Phoenix Gazette. Tully resigned in disgrace a decade ago after his elaborate claims of fighter-pilot heroics were unmasked.
"This gentleman may have been living in his mind on a grandiose level," Phoenix-based Secret Service agent David Moore says of Ling. "But to prove criminal intent and to make a case against someone for impersonation, you have to prove financial or material gain. We didn't get to that point."