On March 2, 2019, Navy recruiter Mark Tatum and his wife, Tiffany, walked into a recruiter’s office at the Naval Air Warfare Center in Dahlgren, California.
It was their first day at work at the Navy recruiting center, and they weren’t exactly expecting much.
But the recruiter was very friendly and took no time to get to know them.
Tatum, a five-star recruit from South Carolina, was in the midst of his second year in the Navy and was hoping to land a Navy scholarship.
His parents had just given him a $100,000 gift card, so he thought he was going to be able to buy himself a house.
But he soon realized the recruitor was not impressed.
“He was like, ‘You need to be a little more professional,'” Tiffany Tatum said.
Tiffany’s mother, Jocelyn, said Tatum was “very professional” with his interactions with the recrucer.
But Tiffany, who was 18 at the time, was also worried.
“I’m like, I’m 18 and I have no idea how to speak up,” she said.
Tapper, who later enrolled at the University of Georgia and earned a bachelor’s degree, told his parents he was looking to get into the military.
“It was my second semester at Georgia and it was my first time at a recruiting station,” Tapper said.
“So I was like I need to have some more experience.”
Tatum took a few classes and was getting to know the recruiters staff, but his parents said he wasn’t feeling up to it.
Tiffany said Tapper’s demeanor was very “cool.”
But it wasn’t long before Tiffany’s parents realized something was very wrong.
“My mom was like my daddy’s daughter,” Tiffany Tapper recalled.
“And I thought, ‘How do I make him stop this?'”
After a few months of trying to work through Tapper and his family, Tiffany Tuma was finally able to contact the Navy recruiter.
“At the end of the day, we had a meeting where we just kind of talked it out and it just turned out it was going very well,” Tiffany said.
But Tatum had a lot to learn.
He said his parents would often talk about how difficult recruiting is and how difficult it is to find jobs for the military, but he didn’t believe that was the case.
“If you want to get a job, recruiters don’t want to talk about that,” Tiffany told CNN.
“They want to recruit you.”
Tapper told Tiffany that he had to make sure that he didn.
“That’s what I’m here for,” Tiffany recalled him saying.
“You have to be really professional.”
He said he wanted to be the best at everything he did and would never get bored at the recruiting office.
But his parents didn’t want him to.
“We told him to do everything he could to be like him,” Tiffany’s mom said.
That’s when Tiffany and his parents began to question the recruer’s attitude.
Tiffany Tapping is an Army veteran and Tiffany’s father, Mark, a retired Air Force pilot, served in the Iraq War.
“For him to be so professional was unbelievable,” Tiffany Trumas said.
He continued to recruit Tapper throughout his enlistment.
But as the recruit continued to work his tail off, Tiffany’s family noticed a lot of inconsistencies.
“The last few months, he was very inconsistent in his work ethic,” Tiffany, said.
His work ethic didn’t seem to match the standards he set for himself.
“One thing I noticed was he would get in trouble for not meeting deadlines,” Tiffany remembered.
He was told that he would be required to take a test, but it didn’t take long before he got into trouble with the recruiting agency.
“There were times where I would be called in to the office for a specific issue and they would have to come up with a specific excuse for me not meeting the deadline,” Tiffany explained.
“His attitude towards the recruiting company was a little bit different than how he treated me and his father.”
The recruiting company started looking into the Taps and found out that their son had been arrested a few times for shoplifting and assault.
“Every time he went through the process of the criminal process, they found a reason to put him in jail,” Tiffany reported.
He also was accused of stealing from his parents’ bank account, which he denied.
“In one instance, his mother had the bank account of the bank and he had his credit card,” Tiffany recounted.
The arrest was one of the first signs that Tapper had some issues in the military and Tiffany said it had to be resolved quickly.
“But the other thing was the people he was dealing with on a daily basis,” Tiffany described.
“When he was in uniform he would have his own little mini-frat house.