Elmore County Man Known for Vi gin Bride Book Convicted of Passport Fraud

MONTGOMERY, Ala., Nov. 1, 2006 -- George Hoey Morris, known for his book explaining to readers how to bring "Virgin Brides" into the United States from other countries, was found guilty of passport fraud by a federal jury in Montgomery on Tuesday.

Morris, age 60 is of Eclectic and was arrested in June by U.S. Immigration and Customs agents for possessing at least four passports that were reported as destroyed.   Morris will be sentenced in January on these charges. He could receive not more than 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Morris, also known as Johnny Ray Fortune, was convicted in October on counts of transportation for illegal sexual activity; coercion or enticement of a female; transportation of minor for sexual purposes; traveling in foreign commerce to engage in sexual activity; and visa fraud.  He will be sentenced on those charges in December.

During his trial on the above mentioned charges, the jury watched and heard a video deposition given by Morris's alleged victim.

The government alleged Morris marred Thao Pham in Vietnam on April 15, 1999 when she was underage (15 years old), and knowingly transported her in foreign commerce, or knowingly induced her to travel in foreign commerce with the intent that she engage in sexual activity with him, among other charges.

Morris's attorney had filed a motion to try and prevent the inclusion of the recorded testimony of Thao Pham claiming the "right of marital privilege" but the motion was denied by Magistrate Judge Susan Walker stating "a defendant spouse may not commit abuse or another offense and then hide behind the marital privilege to shield himself from criminal prosecution based on that abuse."

In the first 50 minutes of the deposition Thao Pham is shown answering questions from Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Redmond.  WSFA.com was not able to attend the next day's session where the remainder of the video deposition was shown.

Pham answers questions about her background indicating she was living in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, better known to many as Saigon, with her parents when she met George Hoey Morris, aka Johnny Ray Fortune.  Pham new the defendant by the name "Johnny" or "Mr. Johnny."

Pham told Redmond, through a translator, she knew Fortune because, "Mr. Johnny went to Vietnam.  He came to marry my older sister."  Pham told the government attorney during questioning that she first met "Johnny" in an area of Ho Chi Minh City reserved for "Americans who come to Vietnam."  She says she traveled to the area with her sister and her parents.  When asked what had happened at the meeting, Pham says, "When we came there Mr. Johnny changed his mind.  He did not want to marry my sister, but marry me."  She says she was 15 years old at the time.   Pham says she was not old enough to marry in Vietnam.

The young woman says when Johnny changed his mind about marrying her sister, "All he said to my family was he change his mind and wants to marry me."  She said after that "we had a party."  She says the party was before they actually got married.  She was asked to identify a "marriage invitation card" bearing both her name and Johnny's name.  She also identified her birth certificate that showed a date of birth in December 1983.

Pham told the prosecutor she was married on a boat and wore a wedding gown and confirmed that pictures were taken of her at the event.  She identified a picture of her standing next to Johnny at the wedding.

She says she went back home with her parents that evening.  Redmond asked Pham, "Who told you that Johnny was your husband?"  Pham answered, "My mother said."

"So a judge, or a monk, or a priest did not tell you that you and Johnny were married?"

"No, ma'am," replied Pham.

Pham says the next morning she went to the airport in Vietnam with her family and Johnny, but she got on the plane only with Johnny.  She says they went "to Thailand" and "stay at the hotel in Bangkok."

When asked if she and Johnny stayed in "one room or two rooms," Pham answered, "One room, ma'am."  When asked what she and Johnny did the Vietnamese woman says, "Ma'am Johnny and I stay and sleep together."  She says they also went "shopping and eating."

Redmond asks Pham,"When you were in Bangkok did the two of you have sex?"  "Yes ma'am," came the reply from Pham.  Pham says she doesn't remember how long she was in Bangkok but believes it was more then one day before the pair went by boat to an island called Phuket.  When asked if she and Johnny had sex while they were staying in Phuket, Pham again answered in the affirmative.  She was shown and remembered photos being taken of her in Phuket.

There is one picture of her in a black slip or dress and another of Pham on a boat with Johnny next to her.

Pham acknowledges she had a passport that allowed her to travel but prosecutors asked her who kept her passport in 1999 and Pham said simply, "Johnny." When asked if she had ever had physical possession of that passport she answered, "No ma'am."

Morris came under scrutiny when he attempted to seek a copyright from the Library of Congress for his book entitled virginbride.net.

Morris was also found guilty in a separate trial of one count possession of firearm, a Ruger .22 caliber Carbine, after having been previously convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term in excess of one year.

Judge L. Scott Coogler declared a mistrial on the second gun charge.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reported by:  Helen Hammons