At least one woman in Hawai`i is among dozens of victims who received gushing love letters and a marriage proposal from an Army officer. Col. Kassem Saleh, 50, is now the subject of a military investigation after he allegedly duped at least 50 women into thinking they were his fiancé, according to a story in today’s New York Times. So far, a group of Col. Saleh’s would-be wives have found kin across the country, from Hawai`i to Alaska, from New York to Washington State, as well as in Canada.
According to the Times, Col. Saleh who is married found his victims via online dating sites, notably Tall Personals, a service catering especially to tall people. While the 29-year Army veteran helped coordinate humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan, he wrote them love letters, sent gifts and photos, and called them via satellite phone. Some received engagement rings, and others had already started planning their weddings.
But then KNDU-TV aired a sentimental story that profiled a Pasco, Wa. woman waiting for her fiancé.
“Love struck Kathy Richardson when she met army Colonel Kass Saleh,” the piece began, and went on to detail Col. Saleh’s background. He was of Palestinian decent, and spoke Arabic. He was stabbed and shot during the fight in Somalia when the Blackhawk helicopters went down.
The story went national via MSNBC, several women called the station, and the fairy tale quickly unraveled.
Now, as a group, they are calling on the Army to punish him, meanwhile counseling those among them who were especially devestated by the news that they weren’t alone. At least one victim has attempted suicide, the Times noted.
Col. Saleh, who has been posting personal ads online for at least five years, apparently recycled portions of his letters for several women. He wrote of his New York childhood, his mother, a supposed divorce 10 years ago and his celibacy ever since.
“We are not a group of stupid, naïve women we are bright, intellectual, professional women,” 33-year-old Maine woman Sarah Calder told the Times. “I can’t tell you how much he wooed us with his words. He made us feel like goddesses, fairy princesses, Cinderellas.”
While Army spokesman Col. Roger King confirmed Col. Saleh’s identity and that an investigation was underway, it’s unclear whether military regulations are applicable in the case.