Tickled 2: This Time It’s War - Part 2
“I know my platoon personally brought in probably $400,000. Every branch of service has had people do this. Every branch of the military. The Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corp, Coastguard.”
This is Part II in the series. You can find Part I here.
Names and certain identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
Lance had served with the USMC for six years, primarily in Washington DC, leaving in 2014. I met him 600 miles away, on a campus where the 27-year-old was currently studying.
He let me take out a small camera and microphone to record our conversation — you know, in case it turned into Tickled 2.
He just made it clear that I would have to disguise his face and voice. He was recently engaged, and wanted to leave this all behind.
He talked in the measured, steady tone that Will had.
“I was stationed in Washington DC, where we marched funerals. On our duty weeks we would march anywhere from four to six funerals. On our off-duty weeks we would perform ceremonial duties — parades, things of that nature.”
“The whole day we have our stone faces, marching our funerals. Marching parades at the Pentagon. We marched Barack Obama’s first inauguration.”
To keep some kind of sanity living in DC, he and his friends would head out of town most weekends. While up in New York to visit his girlfriend, he met Will’s brother, Nathan — the model. “He kinda threw the proposal out to my brother and I if we would like to make some cash on the side.”
Lance thought he was going to be asked to sell supplements, or maybe drugs, so turned the offer down.
A month later, he was back in New York, and the model asked again. This time Lance’s curiosity got the better of him.
“They had a hotel across from Carnegie Hall. It was a nice hotel, and we walked in. And once we got to the floor and room they had a camera crew and people walking around. It was a whole situation going on. And there were a bunch of guys in black tee shirts and gym shorts.
“And sure enough, that was my initial view into that world.”
“Being a 19-year-old marine, I was pulling in minimal pay. The amount of money for an albeit weird — but relatively harmless thing — well …” he trailed off.
And so he filmed an interview, answering 21 questions about tickling. And they wired him $2000.
“We ended up getting a bunch of guys in my platoon and across the barracks in DC who ended up doing this. Eight guys in my platoon, a couple of guys in other platoons, and Bravo company.
“I tripled my income. I know my platoon personally brought in probably $400,000.
“$350,000 to $400,000. Every branch of service has had people do this. Every branch of the military. The Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corp, Coastguard.”
Eventually, the money and competition within the barracks to please ‘Terri’, ‘Jane’ and ‘Terese’ was too much to handle.
As he tells it, bored and claustrophobic at being stuck in DC, one night he and some friends blew a bunch of tickling money on a giant hotel party.
“We got crazy and did some damage to the room. And we tried to, in our youthful idiocy, check into the same place the next weekend, at which point we were shaken down by a police officer and the hotel’s chief of security. They had stills of us off security cameras.”
They paid the bills, and learnt that a ‘Jane O’Brien’ had called the hotel the previous weekend, learning of the damage. It’s Lance’s assertion that she passed the information on to command.
“We served 14 days restriction and reduction in pay.”
“But Terese DeTingo emailed me every day I was on restriction saying, ‘I am so sorry this has happened, this never should have happened’. They were wiring me a shitload of money while I was on restriction, because I dunno — was there weird guilt on their behalf? I don’t know. Everything was under $10,000 to avoid IRS flagging. $3000 here, $6000 there, $5000 here.”
“After that restriction, a marine in DC, every eye is on you, you are not getting away with anything. People at the barracks are starting to ask questions. I am going to breakfast at 5am in the morning and people are nudging me going, ‘I have to get in on this!’
I would say, ‘It’s not like that, we are good.’ I think the guys from Michigan who were over in Bravo company were recruiting, and got some of the guys I’d said ‘no’ to.”
He’d had enough of Terri’s temperamental behaviour, and said he wanted out. “That is putting it nicely. I told him to ‘fuck off’.”
Lance’s story seemed unbelievable — just the scope of things — but certain things he said rang very true. For example, he talked about DiSisto’s love of hockey. None of this was public at the time I met Lance, but we’d found references to D’Amato’s love of the game in his files. Back in his days as a guidance counselor and administrator, he was a keen hockey fan.
But things weren’t over for Lance.
By now, he’d broken up with his girlfriend. One night he was out on a date and got an email from ‘Terri’, telling him what he’d had for dinner. She was correct.
“They contacted people in my hometown in Michigan. They interrogated people who were close to me in my childhood, threatening to reveal information about them, some true, some not true. People I’d grown up with.”
At one point, Lance was called to the mailroom to pick up 12 cases of Jameson and eight cases of Moet Champagne. “They tried to fry me by shipping thousands of dollars of whisky and champagne to the barracks.
“It was like a movie. A horror movie and a comedy at the same time.”
Lance told me it was called the “Tickle Epidemic” on base. “It was truly every branch of service, every base. I was the poster boy for them to recruit people. So when their poster boy fell through, they tried to burn me. They notified our chain of command in DC, the chain of command came down on me.”
“They were in communication with colonels, they were in communication with generals, they were in communication with sergeant majors. So at the end of the day, you are … they namedrop people who are at the Pentagon.”
Lance says a nine-month Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation concluded with him being busted down to private. Others involved were also demoted.
“They charged us for underage drinking and providing alcohol to minors, and whoever was at these parties. I fought tooth and nail and said, ‘You can charge me with conduct unbecoming all day, but at the end of the day I am out on my personal time on the weekend’. And that is when they added underage drinking to the charge sheet, because they knew we had been drinking alcohol on the [tickling] tape.”
Looking to confirm Lance’s story, we reached out to the NCIS under the Freedom of Information Act, requesting documentation on both underage drinking and tickling videos.
According to their Quantico office, when it came to Lance, they had nothing on file about any investigation into drinking or tickling.
I asked Lance why a story so fantastical — involving so many marines — had never leaked.
“The military put a dampener on it, there were directives sent out.”
“We were ordered not to talk about it or discuss it. We were pulled out of formation and identified as ‘faggots’ — not my word, theirs. We tried to talk to public affairs about it, just to be our own advocates, because at the time there was a witch-hunt at the time between our unit, NCIS, and Terese DiTingo or Jane O’Brien. We tried but they were like, ‘No.’ It would make the Marine Corps look bad.”
The stories Lance, Nathan and Will told me all basically lined up with one another.
Lance also gave me a list of other Marines involved during his time in the USMC. I tracked some of them down on Facebook, and going through their photos they appeared to be who Lance claimed: Former Marines.
One of them replied, his story echoing many of Lance’s claims.
“I came into contact with this whole tickle world back in 2009. I was stationed in Washington DC, and I was just walking into a buddy’s room and he was checking his bank account. And I saw he had a nice, nice amount of cash.”
Intrigued, he says he sent a friend request to ‘Terese DiTingo’ on Facebook, and the two started chatting. “And I ended up in the tickle world, me and a few other guys I was stationed with. And you were either tied up, or you were straddled by another guy and tickled in your armpits, your feet, your stomach.”
The former marine confirmed that “loads and loads” of alcohol had been sent to the barracks by ‘Terese’.
“And let’s just say… shit went downhill. Videos started going up. To cut a long story short, I got demoted in rank […] and ended up leaving the DC area in 2010.”
There is plenty of evidence online in archived websites showing that videos were indeed “going up”. This was David D’Amato’s modus operandi when it came to publicly shaming participants that got on his bad side.
A little overwhelmed by it all, I asked Lance what his takeaway was from all this.
I mean, did it matter if the USMC were involved with David D’Amato’s various personas, from Terri DiSisto to Jane O’Brien?
“It’s unbelievably dangerous, because you have guys who are deploying together, from infantry units in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Camp Pendleton California who are meant to be the most cohesive fighting force on the face of the planet!
“I mean, we made personal changes and roster moves within our platoon because of things that were going on with this guy. Training time schedules were affected by all the investigations. I mean, it was a never-ending thing.
“I mean, at no point should a mafioso of a tickle empire be running the United States military.”
Note: I have reached out for comment from the USMC. Anyone with further information can reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org, or sound off in the comments below.
And that’s the big part of Tickled we’ve never told, until now. One of the big threads from a folder on a hard drive called “Tickled 2”.
There are other threads to be pulled, too, but this is the one we liked the most.
It speaks to the scale of it all, and the capacity of people to be sucked into someone’s bizarre universe. All for money, of course. It always is.
Tickled 2 will never be made. The world has moved on. But I guess it’s an example of a story that didn’t make it to film or TV. Lots of ideas never do! They just stay on old hard drives, or as ideas in notebooks, or dusty relics in the back of your brain. Or they turn into articles like this.
I wanted to share this little thread with you, for those that enjoyed Tickled. It’s a reminder that there’s always more threads to pull. And maybe, for your own sanity, sometimes you’ve gotta stop pulling them.
Afterthought: I really do like this quote - it would definitely go on the poster:
“At no point should a mafioso of a tickle empire be running the United States military.”
These additional production stills from Tickled were taken by Dylan Reeve.