As told to me by Karen N. Frances.
How We Met
I met Stan Cottrell in 2003 when I participated in a women’s mission trip. Our group went to Bulgaria with Global Action, a ministry that preaches the gospel and meets the physical and spiritual needs of people in many nations.
Stan was a ministry partner with Global Action. I met him when he spoke to our mission group at a dinner in Bulgaria. In his talk he told us about his life, about the two books he had written, and how the books were about overcoming adversity that he had faced in life.
In July 2004 I began facing adversity in my own life. I was experiencing a very bad time in my marriage and I remembered what he had said in his talk. I thought it would be good for me to read his books. I wrote to him and asked where I could get his books.
He sent them to me. He wrote that he didn’t want to take any money for them. I was so surprised. He insisted that I just accept them as a gift.
We exchanged phone numbers, and he called me and asked me questions about my marriage. I let him know that I was going through a difficult time, and that I was separated from my husband. The next morning he sent me a poem saying I was the love he had been looking for for 60 years. He said very flattering things to me. I just couldn’t believe that he remembered me from that brief time we had met in Bulgaria the year before.
In September 2004 we met in Hickory, North Carolina. He told me he loved me and that I was the love of his live. He told me he was separated from his wife and he was getting a divorce, and he wanted to marry me.
I was going through a very hard time in my marriage and I fell victim to something that was stronger than I was at the time. He took advantage of me during a very difficult time in my life.
He invited me to travel with him overseas. We went to Bulgaria again in 2004, to China in 2006, and to Taiwan in 2007. He said he wanted to take me to these countries, but I paid my own way.
Before the trip to Bulgaria he told me he needed money to produce a movie about his run across the country. It was supposed to be called “Bulgarian Rhapsody.” I gave him $15,000. I know of 2 other people who gave him money, lots of money, in the multiple thousands of dollars. After we got back he told me he needed $50,000 more to finish the Bulgaria movie, and I gave it to him.
But now I know that there was never any movie. It was just an excuse to take money from me and other people.
When we got to Bulgaria I didn’t know what to think. It was hard for me to figure out what was going on. He was supposed to be running across the country, and making a movie, and representing Global Action.
He never ran all the miles he said he did. He was filmed running a few miles into each town, and then a few miles out of each town. The rest of the time he was riding in a van. He was in the van more than he was on the road running. I couldn’t figure out how he was going to run all the miles he was supposed to run. Later on I realized that what he was telling people, that he was running across the country, was all made up just to get people to give him money.
Global Action paid for all his meals and his hotel rooms for the trip. When we got to each town they would set up dinners with the mayor, local business leaders, and other town officials. He was supposed to talk about the ministry efforts with these officials.
The Global Action people and the Bulgarian officials were very disgusted with him because he was supposed to be a role model, and representing a Christian ministry. But at all the official functions he spent all his time promoting an adoption program that had nothing at all to do with Global Action. He wasn’t doing what he had committed to do.
Each person who participates in a Global Action mission trip receives a special book when they return, a book that includes photographs and information specific to that trip. They were so disgusted with Stan that they didn’t even send him one of the books. He was never invited to be a mission partner again.
When we traveled to the other countries he would have meetings with people there. He would tell them that he was going to run across their country and that there would be a movie about it. He told them the movie would be on HBO, and they would make lots of money, and they would be famous. At the time I thought it was all real, but now I know he was just saying all kinds of things to get them to give him money.
He convinced somebody at Johnson & Johnson that these runs were really going to happen, and they gave him a company credit card to use to set things up. He would use it to stay in really nice hotels.
When we traveled and stayed in hotels he would say he had to go to the hotel lobby to get coffee. But looking back now, I know that he wasn’t going to get coffee. There is no way he could ever drink that much coffee. He was going to the hotel lobby so I couldn’t see what he was doing, and he was using the lobby phone to call his other girlfriends.
Stan knew that I had some very valuable Indian artifacts. I had a bowl worth $15,000, a pipe worth $7,000 to $8,000, and a spade worth $4,000. He told me he was opening a museum of Indian artifacts in Kentucky, and he said if I gave my artifacts to him they would be the prize pieces in the museum. He said the museum would attract lots of visitors, and I would recoup my money three times over.
Not only were the artifacts very valuable, but they were priceless to me in terms of sentimental value. My Daddy had found them himself, and he had given them to me. I thought they would be safe in a museum, and that other people could enjoy them, so I gave them to Stan.
I also spent over $10,000 to buy arrowheads and other artifacts that he said were worth more than I was paying. He said his friend would arrange to buy them, and he had me send checks to his friend at his friend’s address.
He would tell me over and over again how much these relics were really worth, and that I would get all my money back, and more. Now I know that there wasn’t ever going to be any museum.
The Four Star General Jacket
I have heard that he goes around telling people that he is a four star general in the Marines, and he shows them a white jacket with lots of medals and ribbons on it. He has told that lie to so many people. I think he takes that jacket with him everywhere he goes. He calls it his “dress whites” and it has become known as the Four Star General Jacket. Your mother-in-law told me he showed it to her.
I bought him that jacket.
He told me he was going to be in a play in the town where his mountain home is in North Georgia, and he needed some costumes for his part in the play. I bought him four costumes, one of which was that jacket. I bought them from the community theater in my town. I think it’s disgusting that he is pretending to be in the military, with all the people dying overseas.
The four gold stars on each of the shoulders of that jacket were even sewn on by my own mother.
The Warning Signs
My friends and family tried to warn me about him. Looking back on all of it now, I realize that there were lots of signs. There were red flags everywhere. But at the time I didn’t see any of them. I am the kind of person who wants to believe the best about people.
He kept me away from people close to him who knew him. Looking back now, I realize that it was like being in a cult.
I never met any of his children. I traveled with him many, many times to the town where he grew up in Kentucky, where his mother and sisters live. But I never met any of them. He always made some excuse about why it wasn’t a good time to visit.
I was with him at his mountain home many, many times. He never wanted me to meet any of the neighbors. Once we got there he insisted that I go right inside the house and not come outside at all. He would always make up some excuse about why he didn’t want me outside.
He would say that he didn’t want the neighbors to see me, because he didn’t want them to gossip about us. Or the weather would be hot, and we would have his dogs with us, Sir Winston and Lady Katherine, and he would say that it was too hot for the dogs to be outside, so we needed to be in the house.
Now I know why he wanted me inside. He didn’t want the neighbors to see me with him there and tell his wife.
How I Found Out The Truth
In 2007 a friend of Stan’s finally opened my eyes to the truth about what was really happening.
Stan had told me he was traveling, and Stan’s friend knew that he wasn’t. He knew he was at his home near Atlanta – with his wife. He called Stan’s house and sat with me with the phone next to my ear so I could hear both sides of the conversation. Stan’s wife answered the phone and he asked her if Stan was home. She said yes, he was taking a nap, did he want her to wake him up, and Stan’s friend said no, he’d call him back later.
I Was Devastated
Up until that point, I chose not to believe the truth. When I found out the truth I was devastated. I felt such remorse for what I had done, carrying on with a married man. I felt such remorse about what I had done to his wife. I felt so much shame and guilt.
I called him and asked him how he could have carried on like that with me for so long, while he was still married. He said he had to tell me that he was divorced because of financial reasons related to his mother-in-law, and he couldn’t tell me the truth about him still being married because he was afraid he would lose some of his assets – another lie. I told him I never wanted to see him again and to never contact me again.
He kept calling me, and I blocked his number from my home phone. He would send me emails to my work email address, and I couldn’t block that. He sent me lots and lots of emails, saying that he loved me, and making up excuses for what he had done.
He was still sending me emails on and off until earlier this year – three years after I told him to never to contact me again. I never responded to any of them. I don’t want to have any contact with him ever again.
After Stan’s friend opened my eyes to what was really happening, he went to Stan and told Stan to give me back the Indian artifacts that I had given him, that they belonged to me. At that point I had been divorced for some time. I was driving a 1986 Ford Thunderbird and living in a dump apartment, and I needed money. Stan said that the artifacts were his now, and he would never give them back.
His Whole Life Is A Lie
I am willing to do whatever I can to stop him. I don’t want what happened to me to happen to anyone else. What I have told you is just a small part of what happened between Stan and me. I can’t believe that it all went on for four years.
I am glad I saved all the emails and cards and letters he sent me, and the receipts for the things I bought him, and other things he gave me. You are welcome to have them. I hope you can use them to help make sure he doesn’t hurt any more innocent people.
He gets invited to do talks before lots of different groups, lots of church groups. That’s one of the ways he finds his victims. He has a ministry that he says promotes sports and friendship. He tells people in his talks that he has run across entire countries. But his runs aren’t even real, and what he does has nothing at all to do with friendship.
It’s all about money.
Stan’s whole life is a lie. I am thankful he is being found out. I hope the world will know he is an evil man with an evil purpose. He has deceived so many innocent women, and people all over the world.
May God help us to make right what he has destroyed.
Karen N. Frances
September 21, 2010