‘Know thyself ‘: all human knowledge begins with an awareness of self. As a child you begin vaguely at first and get to know your place in the narrow world that surrounds you. Coming to terms with the world at large is a slow steady process. During which you do not ever miss sight of your awareness of self. Every challenge at the playground or in the class room you learn in a manner that becomes with repetition, a second nature to you.
Going out into the wider world it may be unsettling at first where you are not taken for what you are. The world is fast settling you to a role that you are sure does not speak for you. You are not so-and so’s son or kid brother. You are what you choose to be. It is here your real knowledge begins in right earnest. How best your conception of your worth is accepted by others? All that clean CVs you present for a position in the company may open the doors or slam shut. You have come to the real test where you must know no one has time or inclination to know you as well you have known. It is somewhat unsettling to know you are assessed by circumstances and facts that didn’t reckon as vital to you. Your identity is seen by world from the wrong end of the glass as it were.
You are a number and your identity has been mashed and drawn into so many pulses in a virtual space that may be hacked and stolen.
For almost 12 years, a Houston elementary school teacher and an illegal immigrant living in Topeka have engaged in a tug of war to claim the identity of Candida L. Gutierrez in a case that has put a face on the growing crime of “total identity theft” in the United States.
Now to quote from the Associated Press (Wichita,Kan.) —On Monday, the real Candida L. Gutierrez saw her identity thief, Benita Cardona-Gonzalez, for the first time. Their encounter came inside a federal courtroom in Wichita, where Cardona-Gonzalez, a Mexican national, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for possessing fraudulent identification documents.
The plea deal Cardona-Gonzalez struck with prosecutors in January gave her less prison time, but guaranteed she would not contest her deportation. She pleaded guilty to an aggravated felony, which typically results in automatic deportation.
Gutierrez first learned her identity had been hijacked when she was turned down for a mortgage. Each year she trudges to the Social Security Administration with her birth certificate, driver’s license, passport and even school yearbooks to prove her identity and clear her employment record.
She spends hours on the phone with creditors and credit bureaus, fills out affidavits and has yet to clean up her credit history. Her tax records are a mess. She even once phoned the impostor’s Kansas employer in a futile effort to find some relief.
Both women had claimed they were identity theft victims and sought to get new Social Security numbers. The Social Security Administration turned down Gutierrez’s request and instead issued a new number to the woman impersonating her.
And in another ironic twist, Gutierrez was forced to file her federal income tax forms using a special identification number usually reserved for illegal immigrants.
Their struggle finally came to a head when Gutierrez got married a year ago, and her new husband set out to clear her credit history. He traced the identity thief to Topeka and on the Internet he found a press release from the U.S. attorney’s office in Kansas about the prosecutions of other illegal immigrants working at Reser’s Fine Foods, the same manufacturer where Cardona-Gonzalez worked. He contacted federal authorities in Kansas, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Anderson took up their case.
“I don’t think we would ever have solved this issue without Brent’s help,” Marquardt said.
U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren called the case a “classic example” of the harm done by identity theft, saying people who characterize the cases as victimless crimes are uninformed. He said he had some reservations about the 18-month prison sentence and whether it was enough, but decided it was acceptable to meet sentencing objectives and bring closure to the victim.
Defense attorney Matthew Works told the court that his client didn’t have an understanding of how difficult it is for the victim to get her identity back. He said after the hearing that Cardona-Gonzalez has authorized him to do anything he can to “try to fix it” so Gutierrez could regain her identity.
Still pending before the court is a prosecution request that Melgren order the Kansas Office of Vital Statistics to correct the name of the mother on the birth certificates issued to Cardona-Gonzalez’s two children who were born in Kansas.