Man Accused Of Stealing Dead Brother's Identity In 1965 Caught With Facial Recognition

The 86-year-old was convicted of identity theft and Social Security fraud and faces up to 20 years in prison.

BANGOR, Maine (AP) — An 86-year-old man accused of assuming his brother’s identity decades ago and using it to double dip on Social Security benefits has been convicted of several charges, caught by facial recognition technology that matched the same face to two different identities, authorities say.

Napoleon Gonzalez, of Etna, assumed the identity of his brother in 1965, a quarter century after his sibling’s death as an infant, and used the stolen identity to obtain Social Security benefits under both identities, multiple passports and state identification cards, law enforcement officials said.

A U.S. District Court jury on Friday convicted him of charges including mail fraud, Social Security fraud, passport fraud and identity theft. He faces up to 20 years in prison at sentencing, with mail fraud carrying the greatest potential penalty of all the charges.

Gonzalez’s benefits were previously investigated by the Social Security Administration in 2010 for potential fraud and his benefits were upheld.

A new investigation was launched in 2020 after facial identification software indicated Gonzalez’s face was on two state identification cards.

A Social Security card is displayed on Oct. 12, 2021, in Tigard, Ore.
A Social Security card is displayed on Oct. 12, 2021, in Tigard, Ore.
AP Photo/Jenny Kane

The facial recognition technology is used by the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles to ensure no one obtains multiple credentials, or credentials under someone else’s name, said Emily Cook, spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office.

“When fraud is detected, the fraudulent transactions are investigated and referred for administrative and/or criminal proceedings. That is what happened with this case,” she said.

When confronted, Gonzalez claimed that he took on his deceased brother’s identity at the direction of the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations while participating in an undercover operation in the 1960s, according to court documents. He later admitted to faking his death under his own identity and continued with his brother’s identity, the documents indicated.

Gonzalez remains free on bail. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

His lawyer didn’t immediately reply to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment.

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