Wednesday Feb 02 2011
Auburn man arrested after using Florida man’s ID for 17 years
By: Jenifer Gee Journal News Editor
Victim jailed for crime he didn’t commit
Placer County detectives arrested an Auburn transient who one labeled an “identity theft pioneer” after he had been posing as a Florida resident for the past 17 years. On Wednesday morning, the Placer County Sheriff’s Office announced the Tuesday afternoon arrest of Joseph Kidd, who had been illegally using the name Larry E. Smith, after Detective Jim Hudson connected Kidd to alleged welfare fraud and identity theft crimes that sent an innocent man to jail for eight days. Kidd, 56, had been using 67-year-old Florida resident Larry Smith’s identity since 1993 and had used Smith’s name to file for welfare and medical benefits, according to Hudson. “We will be spending years trying to unravel the real problem,” Hudson said. Hudson said that in 1993, Kidd somehow obtained Smith’s date of birth and social security number. Kidd moved to California and started using Smith’s identity. Kidd was subsequently booked into Placer County jail numerous times for various crimes and eventually sent to state prison for non-violent offenses. Hudson declined to elaborate more on the type of crimes Kidd committed. Hudson said the lack of technology in 1993 allowed Kidd to be booked as Larry Smith because he had an ID stating that’s who he was. Kidd’s fingerprints were linked to Smith’s name and he was put into the California system as Larry Smith. Thus the beginning of almost two decades filled with problems for the victim. Smith had liens placed against his taxes, was denied medical care, had his driver’s license suspended and spent eight days in jail because of Kidd’s criminal actions in California. Hudson said in 2006, Kidd had violated his parole and had an active search warrant for his arrest. Instead of capturing Kidd, however, Florida law enforcement officials arrested Smith. Smith spent eight days in jail while he and his family tried to prove to California parole and corrections officials that he was not the man they were looking for. “Imagine your surprise for being wanted on parole when you haven’t been to California since 1970,” Hudson said. Hudson said eventually Smith and his wife proved he had been falsely arrested by showing time cards and family photos. Kidd was eventually picked up on the warrant in Arkansas and extradited back to California – but he still remained as Larry Smith. “That’s when things should have been fixed but they weren’t,” Hudson said. Hudson said on Tuesday morning, health and human services employees at Placer County’s welfare office noticed a discrepancy they couldn’t quite explain and showed it to Hudson. He investigated and asked a detective in Sacramento if they had a similar issue there. Hudson said early estimates suggest that Kidd had over $100,000 in medical bills paid for. The time frame in which he claimed those is unknown. Together the two detectives figured out that Kidd had been posing as Smith all these years. Placer County Sheriff’s deputies and Sacramento Police officers arrested Kidd Tuesday afternoon along New Airport Road in Auburn. Hudson said Kidd is currently claming he has “amnesia” and does not know who he is. When asked why it would take 17 years to solve this crime, Hudson said initially the lack of technology but also the unwillingness to ask questions allowed the crime to continue. “The lack of ability, the lack of knowledge and frankly the lack of caring stopped people from fixing this years ago,” Hudson said. “Nobody wanted to argue with the computer. The reality is mistakes happen and we need to fix mistakes when they happen.” To that end, Hudson said he made a vow to the 67-year-old victim of a man who Hudson labeled a “pioneer of identity theft.” “I won’t retire until we resolve this issue,” Hudson said. “I have assured the victim in Florida, the real Larry Smith, that I will get him his name back and he’s not a convicted felon.” Kidd was booked into Placer County Jail on charges of identity theft, welfare fraud and grand theft. Bail was set at $70,000 and he remained in custody Wednesday morning. A call to Larry Smith in Florida, who has indicated he would like to share his story, was not immediately returned. Reach Jenifer Gee at firstname.lastname@example.org.