Candida Gutierrez. Stephen Echols. Marcus Calvillo. They aren’t household names, but their experiences with identity theft were epic. Their “total” identity theft stories provide lessons we should study and heed. These abuses continued for decades. These three examples have been resolved but should not be forgotten.
Unfortunately, similar thefts continue to impact other consumers today.
Government agencies may take up an individual case of ID theft, and their experts know a single identity theft issue may take years to resolve. Plus, that clock doesn’t start until the victim discovers the crime.
Houston Teacher’s Total Theft Case
After a 12-year struggle, elementary school teacher Candida Gutierrez finally faced her identity thief in federal court. Benita Cardona-Gonzalez, was an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who’d exploited that identity to find work, buy a house, obtain medical care, and provide for a growing family. Cardona-Gonzales was in court to receive an 18-month sentence for her crimes to be followed by automatic deportation.
During the years when both women used Gutierrez’s identity, the Houstonian had a wide range of crimes linked to her name. She eventually told her story to the Associated Press, and the tale of her “total” ID theft spread around the globe.
“(Gutierrez) recounted how she learned that her identity had been used to take out a mortgage loan and even to get medical care for the birth of two children,” read the statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Kansas which prosecuted the case.
The victim first learned of her identity theft when the bank rejected her own mortgage application. Twelve years of what officials view as complete or total identity theft required lots of government documents. Cardona-Gonzalez obtained a Social Security card and a Texas birth certificate in the name of another woman. Her thief even had a driver’s license in Gutierrez’s name and used that moniker on her own kids’ birth certificates.
One woman’s quest to live the American dream had become the other’s nightmare. In its wake, a mess of tangled records required correction to give Gutierrez a shot at restoring her good name.
My Neighbor, My ID Thief
Stephen Echols had no idea he was an ID theft victim back in 1999, but he was about to receive his first clue.
“It began one day in 1999 when he found several police officers with guns drawn standing on his front lawn. He was taken into custody and spent 5 and ½ months in jail before being released,” a Military.com article on his experiences with identity theft said.
When the arrest occurred, Echols was a college student. Charges included stalking and making terrorist threats, so bail was set at $250,000—an amount he couldn’t raise. Finally, after five months in jail, Echols was released and given court documents that indicated he wasn’t the man wanted for this crime.
At the time, Echols thought a case of mistaken identity triggered his arrest. The concept of identity theft never entered his mind.
In 2000, a detective requested he stop by the station to look at some photos. One image jumped out at Echols; it was a photo of a bully from Echols’ childhood. His neighborhood menace had misused Echols’ name, even obtaining a new driver’s license using it.
The military veteran went on to secure a job at Los Angeles International Airport which required a security clearance. His high-tech job calibrating security equipment at LAX paid well. Clearance holders must complete extensive background checks frequently, but Echols had a letter from a judge indicating his innocence in two police cases involving his bully’s crimes.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t know that one discussion had been incorrectly recorded as an arrest, or he would have reported it to his employer. Accused of lying about an arrest, Echols lost the security clearance he needed to work. As a result, he and his new bride ended up homeless and living in their car after exhausting all their savings.
It took over three years to clear up the government’s mistake. Meanwhile, Echols applied for an estimated 3,500 jobs, and his wife lost two pregnancies. Finally, unimaginable stress prompted the couple to move to a new state and begin their lives again.
26 Years of Headaches
Someone stole Marcus Calvillo’s identity when he was around 15. Over the years, that thief used his ID to write bad checks and rack up dozens of parking tickets that were never paid. The con artist was also convicted of child sex abuse—under Calvillo’s name.
Those actions cost Calvillo his driver’s license, countless work opportunities and several jobs. His ID thief also secured jobs using the stolen identity, and Calvillo received IRS bills for back taxes on jobs he’d never held.
He despaired of ever mending his damaged identity—until he read the story of Candida Gutierrez. He called the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Kansas that had sent her ID thief to jail. Calvillo finally had an audience for his story.
After two decades, the damage was extensive. He’d lost his home, ended up in divorce court and had no way to pay child support for his six kids. Thankfully, the U.S. Attorney’s Office assisted in correcting court records and convictions improperly linked to his name.
A Glimmer of Hope
These cases are just a few of the extreme identity theft cases reported to government agencies or the media. Each yields a vital lesson in self-protection.
These three victims understand the value of guarding their personally identifiable information (PII) the right way. But the time to do throw up walls around your data is before a major theft, not after. IDShield is in the business of monitoring member PII around the clock so our members can sleep well and worry less. If their data leaks, our firm can alert them rapidly and advise them on the next steps. Try our service for free for 30 days. We think you’ll love the peace of mind that comes with the knowledge that someone’s watching your data 24/7.
IDShield is a product of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. d/b/a LegalShield (“LegalShield”). LegalShield provides access to identity theft protection and restoration services. For complete terms, coverage, and conditions, please see an identity theft plan. All Licensed Private Investigators are licensed in the state of Oklahoma. This is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations.