PITTSBURGH (AP) — A Pennsylvania man who assumed the identity of a baby who died in Texas in 1972 was arrested on charges of Social Security fraud and aggravated identity theft after the child’s aunt discovered the ruse through Ancestry.com, federal authorities said.
Jon Vincent, 44, was arrested in Lansdale, near Philadelphia, on Monday. A federal magistrate on Wednesday ordered him to appear for an arraignment May 2.
Prosecutors said Vincent stole Nathan Laskoski’s identity after escaping from a Texas halfway house in March 1996 and used his new name to start another life. Vincent had been convicted in Texas of indecency with a child, though the precise sentence he was serving wasn’t immediately clear, said Michele Mucellin, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Philadelphia.
The real Nathan Laskoski died at 2 months old in December 1972.
Authorities said Vincent first obtained a Social Security card as Laskoski in 1996. He lived in Mississippi; Tennessee; and Penn Hills and York, Pennsylvania, under the assumed name, authorities said. He held jobs, received a driver’s license and even got married as divorced as Laskoski before the scheme unraveled late last year, according to online court records.
That’s when Nathan’s aunt did a search on Ancestry.com, a genealogy website.
In researching her family tree, Nathan’s name came up as a green leaf on the website, which led to public records suggesting he was alive. The aunt told Nathan’s mother, who did more research and learned that someone had obtained a Social Security card under her son’s name in Texas. Nathan’s mother also found public marriage and divorce records, and she filed an identity theft complaint with the Social Security Administration.
An investigator from the SSA’s Office of Inspector General took it from there in January, court records show.
Nathan’s mother told the investigator she remembers a strange telephone call sometime in 1996, from someone asking questions about her deceased son, including his Social Security number. After answering some of the questions, she questioned the caller, who hung up. When she called the police, they told her it was likely a scam, but nothing more happened, court records show.
Social Security records show Vincent has been employed, as Laskoski, and earned income every year since 1996.
Most recently, he was working as a nurse’s aide, according to licensing records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health. A license was issued to Laskoski in July 2004 and is set to expire in July 2018, the investigator determined.
Court records don’t say where Vincent was working under Laskoski’s name, and Mucellin, the prosecutor’s spokeswoman, also couldn’t say.
Vincent’s public defender, Felicia Sarner, said he “was a very young man when this matter first arose, and he deeply regrets the poor judgment he exercised back then.”
She said: “His conduct has not resulted in any financial loss and throughout all of the intervening years he has not been in trouble with the law and has lived a quiet, hard-working life.”
The Social Security fraud charge carries up to five years in prison on conviction. The aggravated identity theft charge carries a penalty of two years in prison consecutive to any sentence imposed for the fraud count.
Vincent remained jailed Wednesday.
This story has been corrected to show the baby’s aunt, not his mother, discovered the identity theft.