My Doppelganger, the Debt Monger

What does it take to catch an ID thief?

Then I headed for the Florida Department of Corrections Website. Between 1990 and 1993, Thomas was arrested more than three dozen times for issuing fraudulent checks, committing grand theft auto, and (here's a shocker) failing to return a rental car in Palm Beach and Seminole counties. He received probation each time.

On June 12, 2001, Thomas was sentenced to three years and seven months in prison on multiple felony counts of grand theft and forging checks in Broward County. Henry's name does not come up in the state's criminal offender database. In fact the first time Henry had ever been arrested in South Florida was when he was busted for allegedly stealing my identity.

This past May 23, after three continuances, Henry went before Circuit Court Judge David Young, who dismissed the charges. Although I knew about the hearing, I didn't attend because I had presumed Henry had agreed to do one year of probation and enter a pretrial diversion program, according to information I had received from the State Attorney's Office. I was wrong.

Later that day, Assistant State Attorney Margaret Gerson phoned me to say Henry got off on a legal technicality. "No one actually saw him using your personal information," Gerson said. What about Thomas? "Well, the detective never arrested him," she said, "so there is not much we can do."

Following that conversation, I cursed myself for not reporting the Stringers to the U.S. Postal Service or a federal law enforcement agency like the Secret Service or the FBI. Detective Register concurred. "Since your case, I've taken all my ID fraud investigations to the feds," he said. "They make sure you have an airtight case before you even cuff anybody."

Meanwhile Henry still resides in his North Bay Village apartment. I stopped by twice to introduce myself, but Henry wasn't home. I left him my business card and a note to call me for comment, but I haven't heard from him.

It's not over. Last month I received a letter from a collections agency demanding I send them $1348.52 plus 10 percent interest. The creditor: Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

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