A Maryland man who has portrayed himself as a terrorism and human-trafficking expert who was the inspiration for the 2008 Liam Neeson film "Taken" has been charged with fraud.

Federal prosecutors allege that William G. Hillar, of Millersville, has been teaching, giving speeches to law enforcement groups, leading workshops and conducting training under fraudulent pretenses for the past 10 years.

Hillar ran a business called Bill Hillar Training and purported to be a retired Army colonel who served overseas and had received a Ph.D. He also boasted in his appearances that he was the inspiration for "Taken," in which a former CIA operative's daughter is kidnapped by men who want to enslave her.

But students at Monterey Institute of International Studies in California, where he was a part-time instructor, became suspicious, and federal authorities launched an investigation. The school said in a statement in November that Hillar had misrepresented his experience and credentials.

According to the criminal complaint, Hillar was an enlisted sailor in the Coast Guard and was never deployed to the locations he claimed. He also never received specialized training in counter-terrorism, psychological warfare and other fields in which he claimed to be a specialist.

He was charged with mail fraud for requesting payment from the Monterey Institute for work based on false claims.