Today’s fraud begins in 1977.  That year a gallon of gas cost 65 cents, “Star Wars” opened in theaters across the country, the first Apple II computers went on sale and a 25-hour black out occurred in New York City.  And, according to a SeattlePI.com article, that also was the year two men were in a bar fight in Baltimore, Maryland – and one man stole the other’s wallet.  He then proceeded to use the man’s identity for the next 30 years.

So, one guy stole another guy’s wallet 30 years ago.  You may ask:  “How bad could it be?”  Pretty bad, when you think that the victim’s identity in this case is now tied to that of a career criminal.

(Let’s play “count the offenses…”)

Last year, in connection with this case, the fraudster pleaded guilty to misuse of a Social Security Number (1) aggravated identity theft (2) and being a felon in possession of a firearm (3).  But that wasn’t his first brush with the law – not by a long shot.  The article chronicled his lengthy criminal record using the man’s name.  “In 1979, he was convicted of armed robbery of a service station (4) in which his victim was beaten and pistol-whipped (5),” for which he was sentenced to 20 years.  In 1994, he was convicted of reckless endangerment (6) and unlawful display of a weapon (7), resulting from an argument with friends.  Then, in 2005 he was convicted of domestic violence (8) and unlawful possession of a firearm (9) after he “punched his wife and hit her with the blunt end of a hatchet” and “threatened to ‘blow her away.’”  Prosecutors also allege that he failed to pay back taxes (10).

So, how was he caught?  A year ago, the victim – whom prosecutors refer to as M.L.S. – applied for a driver’s license in New York and was asked for his Washington state driver’s license.  Of course, he never had a Washington driver’s license.  Upon investigation officials say that M.L.S. identified the fraudster as the guy from the 1977 bar fight.  (I doubt M.L.S. got a second chance to beat the heck out of him!)  Now, the fraudster will be spending 57 months in prison. (To me, 57 months for a 30-year run does not seem just.)

The point of this fraud is simple:  the identity fraud in this case went on for over 30 years.  If it can happen to M.L.S., it can happen to you.  Safeguard your personal information, and do what you can to avoid becoming a victim.

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