GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - David Alvarez has lived and worked in Grand Rapids since 1997. But over the past decade, someone used his social security number to hold down a steady job and rack up bills in his name.
And despite knowing where the imposter lived and worked, not one law enforcement agency would step in and put a stop to it.
"It's just frustrating," said Alvarez. "It's frustrating. It's been on-going for way to long with no help."
Alvarez first got wind that his identity was stolen when he started getting phone bills in 2002 charging him for calls to Guatemala and El Salvador -- calls he never made. Over the years, the bills kept coming.
Eventually, Alvarez's credit was shot.
"Before we got everything done, my credit rating was in the gutter because of him," said Alvarez.
Alvarez was able find out the identity thief was living and working in Delaware. The imposter held the same job with the same company for at least four years. He was even paying into a 401(k).
Alvarez had his financial advisor call the impostor's employer.
"They contacted his Human Resources Department, and they say, 'Nope. He's legit. He's got all the documentation we need to keep him employed here," said Alvarez. "Same social security number, same name. He's going by David Alvarez."
But the imposter wasn't paying taxes -- which brought the IRS to the real Alvarez's doorstep.
"This guy is earning more than I am, and that's what's really frustrating, is that he's earning more than I am and the IRS says, 'You owe us thousands,'" said Alvarez.
All the while, Alvarez was looking for someone to step in and help.
He first contacted Sussex County in Delaware where the thief worked. They passed him along to Delaware State Police who said because he lived in Michigan, it was a Michigan matter. Kent County authorities passed him on to the FBI..
"I was dumbfounded why the FBI wouldn't investigate it," said Alvarez. "Their answer was, 'No, we can't do that, it's not our jurisdiction." And I go, 'Well, you're the FBI!'"
Target 8 got involved earlier this year and, along with Alvarez, contacted the Michigan and Delaware attorney general offices, U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, Homeland Security, and others.
Finally, on April 5, Immigration and Customs Enforcement stepped in and arrested Miguel Angel Madrid-Alfaro, an illegal immigrant who was living, working and posing as David Alvarez.
He now faces deportation.
So why did it take nearly a decade before any agency would take action?
"This is a great concern, and I think citizens need an answer to that," said Congressman Tim Walberg.
Walberg is a member of the Homeland Security Committee -- Homeland Security ultimately handled the case -- and he said he's investigating to find out what happened.
Walberg said the flaw in the system could lead to more than bad credit and debt for one person -- it could lead to a breech in national security.
"When we don't know who the real David Alvarez is -- specifically versus the fake David Alvarez -- and we know someone is trying to use our system in an illegal way and is willing to do that, what else might they be doing?"
Walberg didn't have a solid answer as to why it took so long for law enforcement agencies to act, but encourages anyone going through the same thing to contact their congressman immediately.
Contact your representative:
U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Tipton): 517.780.9075
U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Grand Rapids): 616.451.8383
U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland): 616.395.0030
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph): 269.982.1986
U.S. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Midland): 989.631.6271
U.S. House of Representatives directory
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