Interesting Twist on Identity Theft

Okay, this is clever.

Basically, someone arrested as a homicide suspect walked out of jail after identifying himself as someone else. The biometric system worked, but human error overrode it:

But Sauceda’s fingerprints, taken by a jail employee to verify his identity, were smudged and couldn’t be matched to those on file for Garcia, said Brian Menges, director of jail administration.

So Sauceda was taken for an additional fingerprint check using the jail’s Live Scan technology. Menges said Saucedo’s Live Scan fingerprints were never compared to those on record for Garcia.

It’s a neat scam. Find out someone else who’s been arrested, have a friend come and post bail for that person, and then steal his identity when the jailers come into the cellblock.

Posted on November 2, 2007 at 12:25 PM17 Comments


Anonymous November 2, 2007 12:46 PM

“Wolff said he understood the problem to be that the Live Scan check of Sauceda’s fingerprints pulled up Sauceda’s own profile, including a photo, and that when Sauceda matched it, he was released.”

Sounds like a mismatch between system design and human factors. The system used fingerprints to call up a photo, it matched the guy who was fingerprinted so the carbon-based system element took that as affirmation of identity without confirming the name match.


jdege November 2, 2007 2:01 PM

“An unidentified person had posted bond for Garcia”

Does this mean that the jail administration doesn’t know who posted bond, or that they didn’t tell the press?

If the former, they’ve got another problem.

bob November 2, 2007 2:57 PM

Sounds more like “identity loan” or “identity extortion” than identity theft.

And, will they give the money back? Id want my $50,000 back if they did not let out the guy who I paid to have released.

kaukomieli November 2, 2007 3:40 PM

my mail account is currently unavailable, so maybe someone cannes forward this to bruce please.

therese was an article in the german financial times saying that a bomb was found in a lorry entering a nuclear power plant in the usa. the article was scarce on details and the alleged bomb is only described as a tube with a suspicious filling. just more scaremongering or something real?

Anonymous November 2, 2007 6:01 PM

Can you say “Catch Me If You Can”? Go read up on what a very young Frank Abignale did along these lines several decades ago…

david November 2, 2007 8:56 PM


If the cell-mate whose identity was borrowed was complicit in the scam, the bail should certainly not be refunded. When one posts bail one makes certain guarantees about the behaviour of the bailed individual, and helping someone else escape from lawful custody is a definite breach of bail conditions.

W L November 3, 2007 12:12 AM

Anon @ 12:46: yes, or a classic example of why identification, authentication, and authorization are all different problems.

Winson G. November 3, 2007 2:37 PM

The only escape this year (so far) from a closed UK prison was from Winson Green (HMP Birmingham). They released the wrong inmate by mistake.

As far as I recall, he spent the day drinking his discharge grant (around USD90) and turned himself in that evening. He had not intended to escape, just took the opportunity gifted to him by the staff.

I remember chatting to a prisoner in the same prison a few years back when an officer dropped in and said to him: “get your things, X, you’re being released.”

He said: “I think you mean my brother, three cells down”. And they did, otherwise, I may have seen the start of an “escape”.

Dlg November 6, 2007 7:23 AM

This technique has been described by Solchenyzin as very common in the Gulag in the USSR. Identify a fellow prisoner with a shorter (or lighter) sentence, and assume his identity at transfer points.

This often involved coercing or subduing the victim, who, by exclusion, ended up with the higher sentence. At least the latter part seems to have been overcome – not by biometrics, but by the rule of law.

Zeph November 8, 2007 4:34 AM

Not clever or even new. The antique “Dick Tracy” comics mentioned this stunt about 30 years ago. Seemed pretty dumb, even then, but bureaucracies are wonderful that way.

Ron Larson November 9, 2007 3:49 PM

I often wonder what will happen when the jails go to the other extreme and only release inmates when given absolute proof of ID and release instructions.

Should work great to prevent another screw up like above. Until they somehow loose an inmate’s record. Then the inmate no longer exists. They can’t release someone who doesn’t exist. The inmate is then stuck in a catch-22. He can’t get out because he can’t prove who he is. He can’t prove who he is because he can’t get out.

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