Impostor changed name of ID theft victim

Article author: 
Roxana Hegeman
Article publisher:
Article date: 
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Article category: 
Article Body: 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Mexican man living unlawfully in the United States for decades was arrested Tuesday in an identity theft scheme that was so ingenious that prosecutors say a court unwittingly changed the name of the U.S. citizen whose identity he assumed to his own real name.

The 33-count indictment outlining one of the most unusual identity theft cases in the country....

Unsealed Tuesday in federal court in Wichita, the indictment against Perez-Rivera and his 82-year-old wife, Antonia Vargas-Ortega, outlines a sporadic history of unlawful entry into the United States that dates as far back as the 1950s...

The government contends Perez-Rivera succeeded in fooling scores of state and federal agencies — with the exception of the times he tried to get Supplemental Social Security Income benefits from the Social Security Administration, where the scam finally unraveled...

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Anderson, who has prosecuted hundreds of immigration-related cases, said he has never seen one in which a defendant allegedly changed the identity theft victim's name to his own name.

The couple settled in California around 1980. Immigration officials arrested Perez-Rivera in 1981 for being in the country unlawfully, but did not take his wife into custody because of three adolescent children in the home, according to the indictment. Instead of surrendering herself to immigration officials the next day as promised, she fled. Court documents not indicate the outcome of his arrest...

In June 2011, an investigator from the Social Security Administration interviewed Perez-Rivera and seized all his identity documents. He was not charged at the time. The government says Perez-Rivera got a new Kansas driver's license less than a month later by claiming he had lost his old one. Prosecutors say he tried in 2012 to replace the seized U.S. passport, falsely declaring again he was U.S. citizen. That time, his application was denied.