Polygraph Expert Says It Ain't Lying. It's Nervousness

May 15, 2015

Permit me to introduce you to Douglas Williams, the owner of Polygraph.com. Instead of writing a lengthy introduction about Mr. Williams, how about I let him speak for himself:

Frankly, the video is pretty straightforward. Williams, a former Oklahoma City law enforcement officer, proclaims that he is the:

only licensed polygraph examiner to ever tell the truth about the so-called lie detector. The truth is a polygraph is not a lie detector. Truthful people are often branded as liars; and liars often pass easily.

Williams calls a polygraph examination "just a sick joke," and he admonishes that the lie detector doesn't so much detect lying as it does nervousness -- and he can teach you how to not be nervous during the exam. As he promises

I will get you ready to pass your polygraph test and you will not have to be frightened or nervous about taking it.

Given that pitch, I'm sure that a lot of folks faced with the dread lie detector test rushed to pay Williams so that they were not be detected as lying when, in fact, as he explained, they were just nervous. You shouldn't think that business plan would get anyone in all that much trouble, right?


On November 14, 2014, Williams was charged in federal court in the Western District of Oklahoma on two counts of mail fraud and three counts of witness tampering. The Indictment alleged that as a result of training provided by Williams, certain Polygraph.com customers were provided with techniques that would purportedly help them evade detection for lying during polygraph exams administered by federal-, intelligence-, state-, and local-law enforcement agencies, as well as during exams administered pursuant to terms of parole or probation.in connection with his alleged training of customers. In United States of America, Plaintiff, v. Douglas G. Williams, Defendant (Indictment, WDOK, 14-CR-318, November 13, 2014).

Undetected Imposters

One of the individuals purportedly trained by Williams was posing as a federal law enforcement officer, and Williams allegedly trained him with the goal of helping him conceal criminal activity during an internal agency investigation. In another example, a second individual posing as a federal job-seeker was trained to conceal crimes during a pre-employment exam. For example, consider these assertions in the Indictment:

37. During the training, Undercover B said to WILLIAMS, ''My big fear is them asking me about the drug question," at which time WILLIAMS interrupted again, saying, "Oh, God, please help me. Brian, shut the fuck up about worrying about stuff. Listen to me .... I was just getting to the solution to your fucking worries .... I've already told you three times, 'quit bringing up negative shit, because I'm fixing it to put it all positive, okay?" WILLIAMS added, "I don't give a damn if you're the biggest heroin dealer in the fucking United States."

38. During the training, WILLIAMS told Undercover B that he (Undercover B) would have to think of scenarios that would cause him (Undercover B) to have a "fearful, nervous, scared-type reaction." Undercover B said, "l got two things. When I was a jailer, I smuggled cocaine into the jail for an inmate." WILLIAMS replied, "Let's don't think about that. What else? What's the other one?" Undercover B responded, "I had to go to the high school to pick up a student because she was involved in drugs, took her to the station, interviewed her, and on the way back we kind of messed around." 15 Case 5:14-cr-00318-M Document 1 Filed 11/13/14 Page 15 of 21 WILLIAMS responded, "Okay, we're not gonna think about that one either." WILLIAMS explained, ''We don't want to think about something that you're lying about, because we don't want you to even think about that, those questions." WILLIAMS told Undercover B, "I'm just wanting you not to think of something that's incriminating."

39. Undercover B later asked WILLIAMS, "If I tell them that I sold drugs in the jail, when I was a jailer, can they use that against me? ... I'm certainly not gonna tell them I got a blow job from a 14-year-old girL" WILLIAMS responded, "Keep that shit to yourself. I mean, why would you ever say something like that anyway? If you're gonna do that, save yourself the trouble, don't even go. If you're gonna sabotage your own damn self." WILLIAMS then said, ''Why would you ever tell 'em sons of bitches anything that you don't want 'em to know?"

40. After telling Undercover B not to admit anything that he (Undercover B) did not want the Federal government to know, WILLIAMS said, "A lot of times they'll say, 'You're having trouble with this drug question. You're having ... There's something else you need to tell me Brian.' You just look at him and say, 'Sir, I have told you the absolute, complete truth.' ... You throw it right back on him. And you do not make any admissions whatsoever." Undercover B told WILLIAMS, "I just don't want Internal Affairs to open up a big investigation," and WILLIAMS responded, ''We're not gonna worry about that because you're not going to have a reaction. I'm showing you, right now. You always get ahead of me. I can solve these problems."

On May 13, 2015, Williams pled guilty to obstruction of justice and mail fraud.

Bill Singer's Comment

A truly interesting and provocative case. We're seeing a lot more so-called "cheating" cases popping up all over -- be that allegations against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for deflating footballs or the recent convictions of 11 Atlanta, GA, educators for helping students to cheat on standardized testing.  In recent years, the BrokeAndBroker.com Blog has reported about numerous cases involving cheating on securities industry registration or continuing education exams.

An interesting thought piece is whether Williams could have merely altered his business model and avoided the criminal charges.

For example, imagine that Williams prepares videos and printed materials that assert his position that lie detectors only detect nervousness and not lies. He then posits that in his professional experience, many honest folks become so nervous during polygraph exams, that their answers are perceived as lies and they fail to get the job offer. Similarly, Williams opines that many crooks are skilled liars and walk into a polygraph exam knowing it's all bull-shit and if they just stay calm, they will pass with flying colors. Based upon those two premises, Williams then offers to sell you a DVD or give you password access to an online video in which he promises to teach you how to stay calm during polygraph exams so that the "truth will come out."  He pointedly admonishes that these course are not intended to train liars to come off as truthful and under no circumstances should job applicant use his methods to avoid detection of their criminal histories by future employers.

In truth and fairness, the above approach is NOT what Williams pursued and the Indictment strongly paints the picture that he knew that he was aiding and abetting job applicants to hide their criminal pasts.  On the other hand, we should be alert as to just where the line is drawn in circumstances where folks are offering "training" in preparation for an important examination or test. At what point, for example, does test preparation cross the line from "gaming" the system and into cheating?  Williams may offer an answer but how far could he have gone before his conduct became criminal?