United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington
MAN WHO LIVED FOR THREE DECADES UNDER FALSE IDENTITY ARRESTED FOR IDENTITY THEFT AND MISUSE OF SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER
Defendant Charged as ‘John Doe’ -- Provides Real Name in Court
TYRONE WUDTEE, 61, of Covington, Washington who was originally charged as a “John Doe,” made his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Seattle yesterday, where he provided his true name. WUDTEE was arrested Wednesday evening on a criminal complaint, alleging that for more than 30 years WUDTEE lived in Western Washington under a name beginning with the initials “M.L.S.” WUDTEE allegedly collected welfare benefits under the name and social security number of the real M.L.S., who resided on the east coast. Authorities traced the first use of the false identity to an arrest in Tacoma in June, 1978. Various jail booking photos from the past two decades show WUDTEE using the name and identifying information of M.L.S.
According to the criminal complaint, the investigation began in January 2010, when the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL) was contacted by an individual in New York who said he was the true M.L.S. M.L.S. had sought a learner’s permit for a drivers license, and was told he needed to bring in his Washington State identity information. Since he had never even visited Washington State, M.L.S. called the Washington State Department of Licensing to report possible identity theft. DOL investigators determined that someone had obtained identity documents in both the M.L.S. name and in another name. Ultimately, the research revealed that WUDTEE had lived under the M.L.S. name and had collected more than $100,000 in unemployment benefits under that name since 1995.
When the alleged victim (the New York M.L.S.) was interviewed, he revealed that in 1977 he had encountered WUDTEE in a bar fight in Baltimore, Maryland, and that WUDTEE had taken off with M.L.S.’s wallet. M.L.S. indicated in the mid-1980s he had been contacted by the IRS about taxes owed on west coast employment. Once M.L.S. demonstrated he had not been employed on the west coast, the matter was dropped.
WUDTEE remains in custody pending a detention hearing on March 31, 2011.
The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. The crime of aggravated identity theft is punishable by a mandatory two year sentence, to follow any prison time on the underlying count of social security misuse.
The case was investigated by Social Security Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG), the Washington State Department of Licensing Fraud Unit, and the Washington State Employment Security Fraud Unit with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF).
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael Scoville.