ORLANDO, Fla. — 9 Investigates learned that some central Florida victims of identity theft are finding themselves in jail.
Channel 9's Anthony DiLorenzo spoke to a local father who was wrongly arrested as a result of identity theft.
DiLorenzo also discovered that the state is now helping victims like Erie Salgado prove they are who they say they are.
Every time Salgado hits the road, it seems he's a wanted fugitive in the eyes of the law.
“Every time I go out, I worry I’ll go to jail,” Salgado told DiLorenzo.
The Kissimmee man is really a husband and father of two who is a victim of identity theft.
"It's pretty much ruined us," said his wife, Betsy.
Salgado's identity was stolen nearly a decade ago in Puerto Rico.
He said his life and credit were ruined.
“We can’t get anything,” Betsy Salgado said.
Salgado has been pulled over a half-dozen times while suspected of being a wanted cocaine dealer from Massachusetts.
Last fall, he even went to jail for the mistaken identification.
“Last time, I go to jail for nothing,” he said.
Salgado's struggle came to a head back in October. He spent Columbus Day weekend in the Brevard County Jail, and it took four days to clear up the confusion.
Sheriff Wayne Ivey apologized, but he explained an unfortunate truth: It's happening more often.
“You can’t give the person that time back in jail,” Ivey said. “You can’t.”
Ivey spent years at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement tracking ID theft trends.
Now, the agency has a program to help identity theft victims prove they are who they say they are.
Special FDLE certificates are given to victims statewide.
“If you’re stopped, it alerts the law enforcement officer you've been the victim of ID theft,” Ivey explained.
9 Investigates found the number of victims applying for the certificates jumped 64 percent between 2011 and the end of last year.
Channel 9 legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said there may be some recourse for victims, but it’s rare.
“Lost wages, and lost reputation is a basis for a lawsuit,” Sheaffer said.
In Salgado's case, he cannot afford a lawyer. Meanwhile, being mistaken for a criminal continues to cost him and his family.
“It’s bad,” he said. “I don't recommend it to nobody.”
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