POSTED: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 - 5:39pm
UPDATED: Thursday, January 6, 2011 - 10:50am
A man in Virginia Beach says his identity was stolen in El Paso, and now his failed background checks have prevented him from getting a job.
John Shelby had a arrest on his record in El Paso; it was a trespassing charge that he says was dropped before it went to court. But because his name and mug shot were in the system, a suspect could easily steal his identity by using his name upon arrest. And that's exactly what he says happened.
"He didn't have anything but my name when he was arrested," Shelby said. He says a man named Jason Newton used his name when Newton was arrested.
"It kind of caused an identity crises for myself a little bit," Shelby said. Years after his criminal charge in El Paso was dropped, he applied for a job, but was turned down.
"They said at that time I was in El Paso County Jail according to their background check," he said. After some calls, Shelby thought it was taken care of.
"The officer sent me a letter and it said I had no record on file and it was all taken care of," he said.
Shelby tried to move on, but every time he applied for a job, he was always passed up. Frustrated, Shelby turned to the El Paso records department. But they told him to hire a lawyer if he wanted his name cleared.
"That I needed to take responsibility for my own life and stop blaming them for my misfortune," Shelby said.
"We need to have tight safeguards on this to make sure it doesn't ruin someone's life," said Shelby's attorney in Austin, Stephen Casey. Casey says several people are at fault for what's happened to his client. But how could this have happened? Newton and Shelby have different hair colors, eye colors, heights, and weights. Casey thinks someone just pulled up Shelby's prior arrest and didn't verify that Newton was telling the truth.
"Originally it was the people who put in the information for the arrest report of Jason Newton," Casey said. "They didn't verify the information."
Shelby's background checks still show those arrests and he says delivering pizzas is the only job he's been able to get.
"I gave up on school because I figure what's the point, I've never had a job I feel suitable for," Shelby said.
We're told Newton is serving a life sentence right now in the alleged beating of a man. Shelby has filed a lawsuit against the city of El Paso for identity theft. We called the city for comment and they said they couldn't comment because it was a police issue. We called police and they told us they could not comment, even on their procedures upon verifying someone's identity upon arrest, until they consulted with the city attorney's office.