PITTSBURGH (AP) — A Pennsylvania man who assumed the identity of a baby who died in Texas in 1972 has been arrested on charges of Social Security fraud and aggravated identity theft after the baby’s aunt discovered the ruse on Ancestry.com.
Jon Vincent, 44, was arrested in Lansdale, near Philadelphia, on Monday, but had also lived near Pittsburgh and York, Pennsylvania since 2003 — after first obtaining a Social Security card in the name Nathan Laskoski in 1996, federal prosecutors said. Vincent remained jailed Wednesday, when a federal magistrate ordered him to appear for arraignment May 2.
The real Nathan Laskoski died in December 1972, two months after he was born near Dallas. Vincent stole the dead child’s identity after escaping from a Texas halfway house in March 1996, and used the dead baby’s identity to start another life, prosecutors said. The Texas conviction was for indecency with a child, though the precise sentence Vincent was serving wasn’t immediately clear, said Michele Mucellin, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia.
Vincent lived in also lived in Mississippi and Tennessee under his assumed name, holding jobs, getting drivers’ licenses and even getting married and divorced as Laskoski before the scheme unraveled late last year, according to online court records.
That’s when Laskoski’s aunt did a search on Ancestry.com, a genealogy website.
In researching her family tree, Nathan Laskoski’s name came up as a “green” leaf on the website, which led to public records suggesting he was alive. The aunt told Laskoski’s mother, who did more research and learned that someone had obtained a Social Security card under her son’s name in Texas, as well as finding public marriage and divorce records, Laskoski’s mother 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.
Laskoski’s mother told the investigator she remembers a strange telephone call sometime in 1996, from someone asking questions about Nathan, 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 isn’t set to expire until 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.”
“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.”
She also said he “deeply regrets the distress this must have caused the decedent’s family.”
The Social Security fraud charge carries up to five years in prison upon conviction, while the aggravated identity theft charge carries a penalty of two years in prison consecutive to any sentence imposed for the fraud count.
This story has been corrected to show the baby’s aunt, not his mother, discovered the identity theft.