Calif. man suspected of impersonating paramedic, firefighter


By Ryan Hammill
Orange County Register
Copyright 2007 The Orange County Register

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — District Attorney's Office investigators arrested a Huntington Beach man today with previous felony convictions on suspicion of impersonating a fire official during major disasters such as the collapse of the World Trade Center and Hurricane Katrina, officials said.

The two-month investigation of James Charles Campbell, 44, ended with investigators executing a search warrant at his home shortly before 8:47 a.m., leading to his arrest, district attorney's officials said. Investigators found a handgun, shotgun and stolen Los Angeles County Fire Department equipment during the search, officials said.

"This is a guy who lived out his life as a firefighter; he was completely obsessed with the idea," Deputy District Attorney Andre Manssourian said. "He had turned his home literally into a shrine to the fantasy of him as a fireman, including fake letters of commendation he had made."

Campbell is being held in Orange County Jail in lieu of $20,000 bail, and is expected to be charged before an arraignment hearing, officials said.

He owns an Anaheim company, Frontline Safety Products, which sells firefighting equipment over the Internet and offers CPR courses.

"What we're concerned with is less that he led his life falsely, but that his misrepresented himself in the financial area and posed a safety threat," Manssourian said. "He led people to believe in his sales pitches by fraudulently representing himself as a firefighter. He also carried a weapon illegally as a convicted felon."

Investigators said Campbell posed as an LAPD paramedic captain and helicopter pilot to gain access to disaster scenes both national and local, including the sites of the World Trade Center collapse, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Dean.

He also gained frontline access to the Sawtooth and Esperanza fires in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, they said. Officials said he shot video footage at the Esperanza fire that claimed the lives of five firefighters.

While acting under the guise of a professional firefighter, officials said, Campbell was hired to teach CPR to local government agencies and private businesses.

Campbell was previously convicted of felony burglary and credit card fraud while working as a paramedic in Arizona, officials said. He lost his paramedic license after the incident, and moved to California in 1995 to again work as a paramedic, but was terminated in 1997 for not disclosing his felony arrest record, officials said.

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