-Cortland Citizens Have Their Trust Betrayed and Pockets Picked!
-Well-Known Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt Conned!
-Scam Involves Oregon State Prison Inmate Serving Time for Sexual Assault of a Minor!
-The Investigation and Its Quickly Developing Results!
By Briggs Seekins
In a story that is still developing, this writer has uncovered evidence that David Lang (aka David Lang Da Silva) of McGraw, NY—nationally known as a notorious fraud—has been uncovered once more operating a Southern Tier MMA school, this time in Cortland, NY.
Lang has a history that stretches back to at least 2010 of operating mixed martial arts and Brazilian jiu-jitsu schools while lying about his true identity, martial arts credentials and military history.
As a result of the investigation being conducted by us and others, events have begun to quickly unfold. On January 17, Carlos David Oliveira, a third degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt living in Richmond, VA, officially renounced any affiliation with Lang in a statement posted to his Facebook page. “I am very hurt, upset and embarrassed,” Oliveira said. “I trusted him and believed him and don’t know why he would do this. My credibility is everything to me and I don’t want anything that would hurt that for me, my family, my students and my other affiliations.”
Lang had tricked Oliveira into endorsing Lang’s school in Cortland. “I have to take back my second stripe certification and my affiliation with him,” Oliveira continued in his statement. “David DaSilva Lang is no longer affiliated with Carlos David BJJ and Evolution Fight Team. He needs to return my certification, take Evolution Fight Team logo off everything, and remove any pictures association himself with me and my school.”
David Lang, aka David Lang Da Silva, among others
Lang originally came to widespread attention in December 2010, when he became the subject of investigation in a thread on the UnderGround Forum at MixedMartialArts.com. At the time, Lang was presenting himself to students as a black belt under Wallid Ismail. Mr. Ismail is a truly legendary figure in the sports of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and vale tudo fighting. And although he was an unfamiliar name to Lang’s students in Ithaca, NY, when word began to leak out on the internet that somebody was claiming a black belt through Ismail in a remote, upstate New York college town, people in the know got immediately suspicious.
As the thread developed, a member of the MMA UnderGround in Rio de Janeiro quickly tracked down Mr. Ismail. The clearly fuming Mr. Ismail issued a prompt video statement denouncing Lang as a fraud who he had never met in his entire life, let alone trained and promoted up to black belt.
In addition to claiming the phony credentials through Mr. Ismail, Lang was also presenting himself to students and other members of the Ithaca business public as a person who had grown up in Brazil with an American mother from Brooklyn. Lang told students he had first moved to the United States at age 19, already a BJJ brown belt, and that he had enlisted in the United States Army and served two tours of duty in Afghanistan with the 101st Infantry Division.
Every one of these claims was quickly discredited, as Lang was unable to provide any evidence to show he had done any actual BJJ training in his life, aside from watching YouTube videos and then imitating what he had seen to other people who also lacked any real BJJ training. Lang was quickly found to be an American-born citizen who had been home schooled by his Christian fundamentalist mother in McGraw, NY. It was established that he in fact had no military background whatsoever.
All of Lang’s duped students at the time were easily convinced of his fraud by members of the UG Forum, like Marine and combat veteran Phil Gizzi of Charleston, SC, who has put together a minor career investigating and exposing phony BJJ grifters like Lang. Mr. Gizzi has donated hours of his time researching these deceptive phonies and exposing them to their students and community.
Mr. Gizzi is a purple belt under Relson Gracie and runs an affiliate school. On the MMA UG Forum, he has a well-established reputation as one of the go-to guys for taking down a fraud quickly and efficiently. He has played a substantial part in eight BJJ/MMA fraud threads over the years and participated in a limited role on several more.
Mr. Gizzi says that Lang rises to a unique level as an MMA fraud. “Lang is by far the most elaborate [fraud] and he’s the only one that even years later after being exposed at every turn, still makes his claims. I feel strongly that he has serious mental health issues.”
From the outside, it appeared after his 2010 exposure that Lang had been routed thoroughly, sent back to McGraw with his tail tucked between his legs while his former students cursed his name and the day they had met him.
For the record, Lang has never offered any defense of his fake military claims and has never offered an explanation for claiming to be a Brazilian citizen while operating a business.
But Lang never really went away. His efforts to continue faking his BJJ credentials have been relentless and industrious, even after being fully exposed while operating in Ithaca. He redoubled his efforts to simulate the appearance of credibility as a BJJ black belt and embarked on an ambitious social media and letter-writing campaign that appears to have led him to become the prison pen pal of Hermes Franca, a real BJJ black belt and UFC veteran currently serving a sentence in the Oregon state penal system for sexual assault of a minor.
Through his association with Hermes Franca, Lang brought Hermes’ nephew Lucca Franca to the United States under the promise of managing the younger Franca and getting him MMA fights in the U.S. Lang also used his new association with the Francas to make a connection with Carlos David Oliveira, another well-known Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who runs a school in Richmond, VA.
Lang used the recommendation of Lucca Franca to meet Oliveira and then approach him with a business opportunity to run an affiliate school of Oliveira’s Team Evolution in Cortland. This school was established by renting space at the Northeast Martial Arts Institute on Owego Street in Cortland. Lang even arranged to have Oliveira send one of his black belts, Paulo Izaias, to live in Cortland and teach at the school for several months to further create the appearance of authenticity for himself.
“I have known Lucca since he was a kid,” Oliveira told this writer when interviewed on the phone on January 13. “He said Lang was a great guy, was going to get him fights. Later he went home. He was mad because he said he never got any fights and it was too cold.”
In March 2013 Oliveira actually did give Lang a “courtesy” promotion to a second stripe black belt. Lang has been proudly displaying the certificate of this as a sign of his legitimacy on his various social media sites.
But when asked about it directly, Oliveira was clearly embarrassed to have issued the promotion. He admitted to never having seen Lang actually practice BJJ during what is known in the art as “a live rolling session.” He also admitted that one of his students who did remember rolling with Lang in March had reported since this story broke that Lang was “terrible” and that “he shouldn’t be a black belt.”
Video obtained during the course of this investigation of David Lang recently “rolling” with a white belt student at his school in Cortland makes it obvious to any BJJ practitioner blue belt or higher that Lang is clearly not a black belt in BJJ.
This writer has canvassed the opinions of numerous black and brown belts in BJJ and it has been the unanimous consensus that, among other things, Lang clearly does not have the posture, facility of movement, control of breathing, awareness of pressure and grips, or any of a number of other details that no legitimate BJJ player at even the intermediate level would be unaware of. One commentator described it aptly: “It doesn’t look like a black belt and a white belt. It looks like two white belts where one guy has two months more training.”
The status of the Francas in this story is far more complicated and difficult to unpack at this moment. Investigation on the UG thread last spring uncovered video and photographic evidence of Lucca Franca training and visiting with David Lang and members of his family in McGraw, NY, and at the Destiny USA mall in Syracuse. Facebook pages that are represented as belonging to various members of the Franca clan and David Lang, along with his mother Pat Lang, show a relationship and a history of encouraging Christian chatter posted to each other’s time lines. Lang has a documented history of faking identities and posting misleading profiles on social media like FB, so it is unknown whether any of this reflects an authentic relationship between the Lang and Franca families. It is known that some relationship definitely exists.
This writer has been in communication with a Facebook page set up for Hermes Franca. As this investigation has leaked emerging details to the UG fraud thread, this FB page has been very busy posting encouraging words and offering virtual hugs to David Lang.
In a call to the Oregon Department of Corrections on January 13, this writer had already learned that inmates in the Oregon penal system are not allowed access to the internet. The conversation between this writer and an Oregon DoC communications officer has also led to the launching of an Oregon DoC Internal Affairs investigation into Franca’s possible involvement in social media and its role in perpetrating a fraud and/or the possibility that Franca is the victim of identity theft by Lang.
The Facebook page claiming to represent Hermes Franca at first quickly accepted my friend request, then almost just as quickly deleted it. A message from the page claimed it was being updated by Hermes’ nephew, Guilherme Franca, who communicates with Hermes by letter, phone and Skype. When informed about this situation by the writer, the alleged nephew claimed his family knew David Lang well and that Hermes had trained with him in Florida for years.
A complication to this story is that another person named David Lang with a legitimate training history and possible prior relationship to Hermes Franca does exist, and Lang has in fact tried to present himself on the internet as this person before. It is unclear if Hermes Franca at this time realizes who exactly David Lang of McGraw, NY, actually is. There is strong reason to believe that he has been misled into believing that he has been in contact with a completely different person.
Then, on January 15, the person identifying himself as Guilhermes Franca on Facebook insisted that the David Lang of McGraw, NY, was indeed a person who had trained with Hermes in Florida “eight years ago.”
This claim completely contradicts anything Lang was telling students about his BJJ history in 2010. The person on Facebook claiming to be Guilhermo Franca also told me Carlos David Oliveira had reported to Hermes Franca that Lang had “tapped” (i.e. defeated) a brown belt and blue belt at the March seminar in question, despite having “a sore shoulder.”
When reached for comment about his alleged conversation about David Lang’s BJJ ability with Hermes Franca, Mr. Oliveira sounded frustrated and upset. He categorically denied having said any such thing. He also stated that Guilhermes Franca, like his brother Lucca, was somebody he had known “since he was a kid.”
He did not want to believe that an old friend from Brazil was telling lies about him on Facebook and he speculated that Lang was probably running the Hermes Franca page. “I think he is mentally ill,” said Mr. Oliveira. “I feel terrible for his children and I feel pity for him, but I can’t let him bring down what I have worked hard to establish.”
Mr. Oliveira further told me he had told Lang the night of January 14 that he had until the end of the week to provide the names and contact information for people he had trained with from blue belt up. “I told him, no certificates, only names, email addresses and phone numbers.” He stated he had not heard from Lang since and followed through with issuing his public statement on January 17.
As for the mysterious Facebook messages claiming to come from Guilhermo Franca, this writer and longtime operatives on the UG fraud thread are all inclined to believe that it comes from Lang himself. In addition to the blatant lies the message contained, it was written in very easy to understand English, except with random re-ordering of the words and clauses in certain sentences. This is a strategy Lang is known to have employed before when trying to pretend to be from another country.
Lang has a documented history of going to tremendous lengths to pull his scams off, and has exploited Facebook in the past, setting up page after page under aliases such as Dave La DaSilva, Dave Debean La Silva, and assorted others.
The David Lang story is far too complicated to begin to detail in one short article. Lang is an individual who has gone to bizarre lengths to defraud and trick people, when similar time and energy, and far less expense, could have allowed him to largely achieve his stated goal of wearing a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with pride.
To detail the entire, three-plus year history of the David Lang saga, I will be publishing a three-part series detailing his outrageous claims and deceptions and updating this unfolding story with his newest, most outrageous attempt yet to steal legitimacy from the art of jiu-jitsu and betray and take advantage of the trust of anyone unfortunate enough to cross paths with him.
At this point, there are still people in the Cortland area who remain fooled by Lang. The lessons he has learned from his past frauds have allowed him to establish a more plausible-looking facade this time around. Operatives from the UG fraud thread have reached out to these people and offered them the information they need to be free of this parasitic con man.
The David Lang Saga, Part One: Somewhere in Rio, Wallid is Fuming
Guys lie about their martial arts credentials. It’s a well-known fact in guy culture. Anybody who ever spent much time in a gym, locker room, military barracks, or construction site will remember at least one or two blowhards who claimed to be masters of some deadly martial art like Kung Fu or Dim Mak. In the two decades since the Gracie family of Brazil launched mixed martial arts in the United States, Brazilian jiu-jitsu has become a go-to art for fraudulent tough guys to claim.
But while a depressing number of American males will fudge about their martial arts credentials to impress peers or women in bars, not that many will go to the trouble of actually establishing schools where they fraudulently present themselves to the public as a legitimate martial arts expert.
Not that many people do it, but it happens often enough that an entire genre of internet threads has developed on martial arts sites over the years dedicated to exposing these frauds when they do appear. Phil Gizzi and others on the MMA UG Forum are a prime example. When Mr. Gizzi initially contacted Lang in December 2010 he was honest about his identity and ranking as a BJJ blue belt, but he told Lang he would be visiting Ithaca and was looking for a place to train.
The prospect of an authentic and active blue belt visiting his school put Lang on the immediate defensive. He replied to Mr. Gizzi in a manner that would lead one to believe he barely spoke English, although at the gym he had told everybody his mother was American and that he had grown up speaking it often in his home in Brazil—which explained why he was fluent in it.
When finally questioned directly by Mr. Gizzi, Lang replied:
Phil your questions i will answer after the holidays.
i did go back and forth from brasil as someone posted.
tell your unnamed source that i am sorry we took 4 people from his gym.
it is sad that people feel the need to lie.
i work very hard for what i have.
12/20/10 10:47 PM
Within a short time of contacting Lang, Mr. Gizzi quickly received an email purporting to be from Brazil and claiming Lang was a legitimate black belt under Wallid Ismail. A quick ISP check showed the email had originated from the same ISP as Lang’s own emails.
One claim Lang had made while operating in Ithaca was that he had a cousin in Brazil named Rafael Lang, who was a black belt and ran a school down there. Such a person does in fact exist and Lang was friends with them on Facebook. Nearly every day Lang would send greetings on Rafael Lang’s main page, writing phrases in what appeared to be Portuguese.
Actual Portuguese speakers who came to the fraud thread quickly recognized Lang’s Portuguese as from Google Translate.
Lang’s entire deception at this point fell apart within a week. As Mr. Gizzi became more confrontational and direct with his questioning, Lang became more evasive and difficult to even understand. Eventually he wrote:
Phil thank you for being truthful with me.
my family in brasil and my two masters in jiu jitsu will speak on my behalf if need be.
i am a man that has faith in God. he will vindicate me.
I teach BJJ to help the weak because that is what i was called to do.
Some day when i have time i will visit these sites of web.
anyone is welcome at my academy.
my masters will say only good of me….if they need speak
12/21/10 9:23 PM
Research on Facebook quickly located enough of his students to get the word all the way out, and it was not very difficult, ultimately, to show Lang as a fraud. By December 23, 2010, Lang and his older brother Robert had packed up all the mats and equipment at Lang’s gym in Ithaca, and Lang had posted pictures of the empty space on Facebook.
During the investigation, it also came to light that David Lang had promoted students to blue belt and issued them certificates containing Wallid Ismail’s forged signature, spelled incorrectly.
While Lang’s former students in this first go around were not very hard to convince, many were shocked and very upset. A number of the younger students had developed what they thought was a really good friendship with Lang. The kind of friendly camaraderie that comes from training with people in grappling or MMA means a lot to most of the people who do it, and to have had that good feeling violated so outrageously was stunning. One former student reported to me that he really felt messed up about it for a long time. Another student, when the story very first broke, refused to believe it was even true, insisting the entire thread was just a big practical joke that Lang was in on.
At this point it seemed like Lang had been stopped, probably for good. For a good period of time the thread was lively with former students coming on and repeating the ridiculous claims Lang had made to them over the months they had known him, things like having defeated UFC veteran Kenny Florian in a finals at a NAGA, or about having trained with Rickson Gracie back in Brazil, or about being a long-time friend of former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra, or about having taught for Renzo Gracie at his school in Newark, NJ, or about having fought in Rio Heroes in Brazil during a leave from the army.
Lang told too many lies to really track down and record during this time period, but none of the lies involved his current claims about a long-standing association with Hermes Franca.
The pure shame and humiliation that were showered on Lang should have been enough to convince him to never again deceive the public in this manner. But, amazingly, Lang has continued to stick around the same Cortland-Tompkins County area, continuing to make new black belt claims.
His entire operation has recently become more sophisticated and deceptive than before, and details of it continue to emerge, even as this report is being written. A quick Google search of “David Lang” and “BJJ” will quickly lead a person to discover the UG fraud thread, but Lang has managed to create a facade that looks entirely convincing to somebody who would not know better and even to trusting people who probably should know better.
Read Part Two here.