My name is Stephen Echols. I am a United States Air Force Desert Shield/Desert Storm Era decorated veteran who is also a victim of criminal identity theft.
In 1999, I was arrested for a crime I did not commit and spent 5 ½ months in jail until I was released. I learned a childhood acquaintance of mine had stolen my identity, using my name as an alias. I have not seen this person in over 20 years. Once released, I had the case reduced to a misdemeanor, expunged, and dismissed thinking this would be removed from my record and I would be able to get on with my life.
In 2000 stating my identity was stolen, I received a Judicial Clearance signed by a Superior Court judge!
Shortly after that, I completed my Associates of Science degree in Electronics Engineering and went to work at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) as a Field Service Technician until I was laid off in 2001 due to airport closures as a result of the 9/11 tragedy.
I then went back to college and received my Bachelors of Science degree in Information Systems Security and got a job with then InVision Technologies (now Morpho Detection, Inc.) at LAX as a Field Service Engineer.
When I got this job, I passed their company background check process with no problems. The report had no criminal activity on it. Also, I passed the federal Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) background check as well. I did present the Judicial Clearance and did a Live Scan of my fingerprints and was issued a security badge annually. I also passed the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) background check along with the Long Beach Airport badging process. I would just present my Judicial Clearance and if any questions arose they would get cleared.
In 2007 on New Year’s Day, I was stopped by the local police for a minor traffic violation. They ran my driver’s license and came back to me with their guns drawn. They said I had an outstanding no bail warrant for my arrest. I showed them my Judicial Clearance. They still impounded my vehicle and took me to jail. They ran a Live Scan of my fingerprints and after about four hours they released me. They apologized and drove me home.
The next day they picked me up and took me to get my vehicle. Two weeks later, I received a letter from them stating I was detained but released because I was not the person for whom the warrant was issued. I did not know that they documented the incident as an arrest electronically and put that on my record.
When I went to work the next day, I informed my manager about the incident and told him that I was a victim of Identity Theft, and showed him my Judicial Clearance. Everything at work was fine for the next three years until January 2010.
In November 2009, my perpetrator had been apprehended. I went to court and received another Judicial Clearance in January 2010.
Our contractors, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), decided all engineers who worked EDS had to complete a background process called eQip. It is a 30 page questionnaire and background check which had to be submitted online. I also had to submit my fingerprints through the Live Scan process. I completed the background portion but omitted the 2007 incident because:
- I did not commit the crime.
- If I included it on the application, it would make me look guilty.
- I have now two Judicial Clearances that exonerate me.
- There was no place on the application where you could explain things.
In mid-March 2010, I received a letter from TSA stating I failed the eQip process because I was dishonest about the 2007 incident. Shortly after I received an email from Morpho Detection, Inc stating I was being placed on suspension without pay. I emailed up the chain of command explaining my Identity Theft issue, and so they decided to suspend me with pay. At the same time, I sent two packages to the TSA in Arlington, Virginia explaining the situation and providing evidence. Neither Morpho Detection nor TSA replied at all. I asked them to compare the report to the Live Scan of my fingerprints I had given them. They did not do that. I also told Morpho Detection to do the same. Two weeks later I was terminated.
In April 2010, I was able to petition the Department of Justice to have my electronic record corrected and it was granted. I tried to re-apply for my position with Morpho Detection but was turned down. I worked for them for over five years with no problems. For the next nine months or so I applied for other employment with no success.
In early 2011, my wife Trina and I were in the public library applying for jobs when she happened to see a book on Identity Theft that was authored by Mari Frank. She is a wonderful attorney who specializes in privacy rights and Identity Theft with a stellar career. I wrote her of my plight and she corresponded back. Up until now, she has been instrumental in assisting me to get this problem resolved pro bono.
She solicited other attorneys with no success. She asked me to petition the TSA through their Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) office to release a copy of the background report that got me terminated. By their own law, they are required to provide me that report within one month. After many, many requests, it has been 15 months and I still do not have the report. They keep telling me it is in “Management Review”.
Also according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) any employee that is terminated has the right to receive the report to review for errors. TSA has not nor seemingly will ever release that document to me or my attorney, Mari Frank.
Over the past decade I have tried to have criminal charges of Identity Theft brought against the perpetrator four times through law enforcement agencies. One of the agencies was the one who originally issued the warrant for him.
Mari Frank enlisted the assistance of a dutiful and dedicated detective in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department by the name of Trent Thurbur. He was finally able for me to get a police report filed about one month ago. Mari Frank was also able to fine a great attorney out of San Francisco that agreed to take the case. His name is John Fallat and he is an excellent litigator. He has filed suit against Morpho Detection, Inc and the TSA who are both hesitant to communicate, much less resolve this issue out of court.
I went from making $70,000 per year, including benefits and overtime, to $221 per month in General Relief Benefits. Ever since my termination in March 2010, my wife and I have been completely devastated. I have applied to over 2500 jobs with no success. I have even been rejected for a dishwasher position.
The snow ball effect, we have been evicted from our apartment and are currently homeless, living out of our car, which is up for repossession, from time to time. My wife has had several emotional breakdowns and wants to take stress leave, but she cannot because she is the only one employed, and she only makes a few dollars over minimum wage. This is only exasperated by her having two stress related miscarriages, and this is taking a toll on our marriage.
My credit score used to be in the mid 700’s. Now it is down to 500. I am $120,000 in debt. I used to pay my bills early. I am a diabetic and have high blood pressure and hypertension, but I cannot afford the medication to maintain my health.
On August 18, 2012, I went to the VA hospital to try to enroll in their homeless program. The nurse took by blood pressure which was 201/102. She told me I am on the verge of having a stroke.
I have nightmares and night sweats and my vision is going bad.
Sometimes we have to push the car because it runs out of gas.
We have gone days without eating and frequent the food banks. We sometimes dig through dumpsters for food and recyclables.
We have not bought any clothes in over two years. If our situation does not drastically change, we will be living on the streets.
I have been wronged in so many ways by this Identity Theft.
As told by: Stephen Echols, United States Air Force Desert Shield/Desert Storm Era decorated veteran