News and Press Releases

Assumed Identity of Family Acquaintance to Avoid Prosecution, then Fraudulently Obtained Benefits and Declared Bankruptcy Using the False Information

December 4, 2009

CLARK MOWER, 58, of Seattle, Washington was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to two years in prison and one year of supervised release for Aggravated Identity Theft. MOWER had used the personally identifying information of a family acquaintance for more than 30 years to avoid prosecution for drug and alcohol charges. MOWER then used the stolen identity to obtain government benefits and declare bankruptcy, creating years of difficulties for the victim. The victim, a resident of Oregon, has struggled for years to clear his credit and get MOWER to stop using his identity. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones said “What you did created total havoc in someone’s life.... It was a nightmare. You started off running because of fear of going to prison, and that’s where you wind up.”

According to records filed in the case, MOWER obtained the birth date and Social Security Number of the victim from the victim’s brother. MOWER told the brother he was trying to avoid California State warrants for a felony controlled substance charge and a driving under the influence charge. Over the years, MOWER used the victim’s identity to run up more than $139,000 in debts, and in 1986, MOWER filed for bankruptcy. After the bankruptcy was granted, the victim had trouble getting home and vehicle loans because MOWER had severely damaged his credit. MOWER also used the victim’s identity for employment purposes, creating income tax problems for the victim with the IRS.

In 2008, when the victim tried to start collecting his Social Security retirement benefits, his entire social security record had to be sorted out because of MOWER’s misuse of his Social Security Number. Sporadically, over the last ten years, MOWER obtained Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) benefits using the victim’s identity, and more recently, in 2008 and 2009, MOWER obtained medical services using the victim’s identity. Years earlier, the victim had contacted MOWER’s family, and asked him to stop using his identity, but the fraud continued.

Judge Jones ordered MOWER to pay $1,520 to DSHS for funds he unlawfully obtained, and $652 to Premera/Lifewise for medical services he wrongly obtained in the victim’s name.

MOWER was located and arrested July 29, 2009, and pleaded guilty to Aggravated Identity Theft on August 19, 2009.

In her memo to the court, Special Assistant United States Attorney Johanna Vanderlee said the two years sentence was appropriate. “By stealing (the victim’s) identity for over 35 years, the Defendant had avoided incarceration and was never held accountable for his California crimes. For 35 years, the Defendant disrupted the victim’s life and caused him, on multiple occasions, to interact with government agencies and creditors who considered him to be involved in malfeasance,” Ms. Vanderlee wrote in her sentencing memo.

When he addressed Judge Jones, MOWER said “I’m deeply sorry. I regret harming (the victim) in any way... that was never my intention to harm anyone.”

The case was investigated by the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG) and the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services Special Investigations.

The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Johanna Vanderlee. Ms. Vanderlee is an attorney with the Social Security Administration, specially designated to prosecute Social Security fraud related cases in federal court.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.

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