Chandler freelance writer Randy Harrington triggered a foaming-at-the-mouth frenzy in the anti-immigration movement earlier this month when he published a bombshell story revealing that Mexican government officials are supposedly providing substantial aid to Mexican citizens seeking to illegally enter the United States.
"The Mexican Consulate is briefing illegal aliens, and providing them with U.S. cash, and intelligence data designed to defeat Sheriff [Joe] Arpaio's efforts to combat illegal immigration," Harrington states in the lead paragraph of his July 7 article that was first published on the anti-immigrationist American Chronicle Web site.
The story was republished July 9 on Mexican-basher Glenn Spencer's popular Web site American Patrol, where it has received more than 16 million hits. It went on to provide details about meetings between Mexicans preparing to illegally enter the United States and representatives of the Mexican Consulate.
Harrington reported that during the alleged meetings held in San Luis, a small Mexican border town south of Yuma, Mexican officials provided detailed information on Maricopa County Sheriff's Office operations in the desert southwest of Phoenix, including the times of shift changes and the type of vehicles used by officers.
"Before the meeting ended, each meeting attendee was given a bag that had an envelope which contained $250 in U.S. currency. 2 gallons of water. Canned food. And a prepaid telephone calling card," Harrington's story states.
Harrington claims in his article that Mexican officials also provided attendees with detailed, 10-page written instructions on how to navigate across the border and what to do once in the United States.
"The written instructions . . . provided 'Contact Numbers' for illegal aliens to call if they got in trouble in the United States," Harrington wrote. "One of the telephone numbers was the office of U.S. Senator John McCain in Phoenix. The instructions in Spanish said, 'if you have any problems you should call Senator McCain's office who has agreed to help Mexican nationals in the United States.'"
Mexican authorities, Harrington reported, told attendees that it was best to enter the United States near Douglas because the sheriff's departments in Cochise, Pima and Pinal counties were not aggressively going after illegal aliens, like Arpaio is in Maricopa County.
The story concludes with Harrington praising Arpaio for his aggressive work rounding up illegal aliens and making more than 245 arrests in recent weeks.
"Sheriff Arpaio's operation was a success, and he should be applauded for his actions," Harrington states.
It's one hell of a yarn that certainly stirred up emotions in the vitriolic and increasingly rabid anti-immigration movement. I seriously doubt a word of it is true, though the damage it's doing is real.
"The content of the story is outlandish, as are so many of the other rumors about illegal immigrants that get repeated so often they are taken as fact," said Heidi Beirich, spokeswoman for the Southern Poverty Law Center based in Montgomery, Alabama, a nonprofit organization that tracks hate groups across the country.
"There's a certain xenophobic sector of the population that wants to believe the worst about immigrants, and this kind of 'reporting' only adds fuel to the fire," Beirich said.
I sent a copy of Harrington's story to McCain spokesman Paul Hickman. He said the story, which makes several references to McCain's office providing assistance to illegal aliens, is totally unfounded.
"Our office has not agreed to help anyone engaged in any illegal enterprise, irrespective of their nationality," Hickman said.
Admittedly, I cannot speak to every detail in Harrington's article. But I can report with absolute certainty that Harrington, 50, is a professional con man who was married to three women at the same time. He's a deadbeat dad owing more than $31,000 for two of his children who has a well-documented history of deceit stretching from here to Nogales, Sonora.
The fact that he was able to publish his tall tale of illegal border crossings in two of the leading anti-immigration Web sites American Patrol and American Chronicle seriously damages whatever credibility these propaganda mills possessed.
Glenn Spencer, president of American Patrol, didn't return my telephone calls requesting an interview to discuss any expertise Harrington might have on illegal-immigration matters, along with Harrington's extensive criminal background that includes prison time in California and Arizona.
Peter Kresa, an American Chronicle editor, tells me he was unaware of Harrington's criminal background. He said many of the stories on the Web site are posted without detailed review by editors.
During a 44-minute, taped telephone interview with Harrington on July 19, he confirmed most of his criminal past but continued to deny involvement in other issues that were documented in court records.
Randy Harrington repeatedly denied that he was ever married to Judy Lynn Harrington, even though I told him I had copies of an August 15, 2005, judgment stating he owed $31,722, plus interest, in past child support for two children born during that marriage.
"I have no clue who she is, or what that's all about," he told me.
I told him the child-support order included a social security number that I had seen connected to his name in other court documents related to his extensive criminal activity.
Harrington claimed that somebody had been using his social security number in the past and had even applied for an Arizona driver's license. He said that's why it might be showing up in reference to the marriage.
"It was my social security number then, but it is not my social security number now," he said.
I don't believe Harrington for a second.
So I tracked down Judy Lynn Harrington, who is now living out of state with her two sons, whom she said were fathered by Randy Harrington.
Her son Andrew, 17, answered my phone call, and I discussed the situation with him briefly before he contacted his mother at work and we had a three-way conversation.
When I first told Andrew I was calling about Randy Harrington, there was a moment of silence, and then the young man said:
"That's not my dad. But he's my father. We've been looking for him for 14 years."
Andrew has no love lost for his AWOL father because of how he abandoned Andrew's mother and brother and how he treated her during their marriage.
"I don't want to meet him because I'll end up hurting him," Andrew said.
Judy Lynn said she was married to Randy between April 1990 and February 1994. These are the same dates that appear in the child-support order.
"Everything I knew about this man was a lie," Judy Lynn said. "Everything."
Judy Lynn stated that Randy abandoned the family in December 1991, and she hasn't seen him since. The last time she talked to him was during a 2001 child-support hearing.
Judy said she fell in love with Randy because he claimed to have been a retired cop and a Vietnam War veteran who had won the Congressional Medal of Honor.
"After he left me, I looked it up, and he was never in the military," she said.
Maricopa County Superior Court records reveal that Judy Lynn was not Randy's only wife during the early 1990s. Randy Harrington was married to Deborahann J. Harrington in Las Vegas in November 1984. The marriage was annulled on November 19, 2001.
During the course of the annulment proceedings, Superior Court records reveal that Randy was married to yet another woman at the same time Teresa Gutierrez. Court records show that Randy married Gutierrez in November 1981 and that she later filed for divorce in 1984 in Los Angeles, but that the divorce was never finalized.
The duplicity in Harrington's personal life is matched in his professional life.
Randy Harrington was convicted of felony grand theft and attempted theft in Orange County, California, in September 1993. He told me he spent "six months" in prison. He said the charge was related to when he was practicing law in California. Court documents show that he never graduated from law school.
He pleaded guilty to misconduct involving a weapon after he was arrested by Chandler police during a March 1999 domestic dispute with Deborahann Harrington. He was sentenced to prison and served about a year, he says.
Most recently, Randy Harrington pleaded guilty to attempting to practice medicine without a license. He was sentenced to three years on supervised probation last April. His probation officer was unable verify a list of supposed academic credentials, including a law degree from UCLA, a Ph.D. from UCLA, and Doctor of Osteopathy from Midwestern University.
"Police attempted to verify each of Harrington's claims and learned [that] none of the institutions or medical agencies have any record of him," a March 31 pre-sentence report states.
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Harrington faces the possibility of additional felony charges stemming from allegations that he submitted false documents to the court and county attorney's office in connection with the investigation that led to his guilty plea in the practicing-without-a-medical-license case.
It's amazing that Harrington has gotten away with one scam after another for more than 15 years and that he still remains free to gin up stories about illegal immigrants receiving money, tips and cash from Mexican authorities and getting assistance from John McCain's staff.
It's even more appalling that law-and-order Sheriff Arpaio had Harrington in custody from September 2005 through April 1 and never arrested the bum for being delinquent by at least $31,000 in child-support payments.
Perhaps that's why Harrington cranked out his "news story" praising the noble Sheriff Joe's relentless attack on illegal Mexican immigrants.