Identity theft suspect sentenced to one year in prison
A man arrested for stealing the identity of a baby will spend a year in prison and will then likely face deportation to Mexico.
Tuesday afternoon, Marcos Lopez pled guilty to one count of forgery and one count of identity deception. Marion County Criminal Court judge Lisa Borges sentenced him to serve two years in prison. Convicted felons in Indiana spend just half of their sentence behind bars due to the state's "good time credit" law, which means Lopez will spend one year behind bars.
Lopez was arrested in November following a year-long investigation by Eyewitness News.
The investigation exposed how Lopez stole the Social Security number of Adam Brackin just days after he was born, and used the boy's personal information for more than a decade to get jobs, rent homes and apartments, and ruin Adam's credit rating.
13 Investigates had tried to track down Lopez for months, but his address and employment information changed frequently and quickly, making it difficult to find him.
That changed a few months ago, when Eyewitness News and IMPD received a tip that Lopez was working at Chumley's Bar and Grill in Broad Ripple – a job he got by fraudulently using Brackin's stolen Social Security number.
IMPD detectives determined the undocumented worker has used six different names, has five different Social Security numbers and has been arrested on four separate occasions for violations such as public intoxication, drunken driving and resisting law enforcement.
"I am very sorry"
Today in court, Lopez admitted he had been using Adam's personal information illegally since he purchased a fake Social Security card in Chicago in 1997, the same year he came to the United States from Mexico. Lopez told the judge he used the Social Security number to get jobs in Indiana, allowing him to send $400 to $500 each month to his wife, children and mother in Mexico City.
"I never thought my actions would harm [Adam]," Lopez told the judge. "Someone just sold me the Social Security number. I am very sorry for my actions -- from the bottom of my heart."
Before the judge announced Lopez's sentence, Adam's mother testified about the impact of identity theft on her family.
"It's been a long, long road for us with lots of sleepness nights," said Angie Brackin. "The very Social Security number that Marcos needed to work is the same Social Security number my son will need to get a job, and it's been very hard to figure out was happening, how to stop it and how to make things right."
Lopez's arrest and felony conviction has caught the attention of U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement. When he completes his prison sentence with the Indiana Department of Correction, the illegal immigrant will be released to the custody of ICE, and is then expected to be deported back to his home country.
"There are no winners in all of this, but we are relieved it's over, " Brackin said.
How to protect your kids
An estimated 140,000 identity frauds are committed against minors each year, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
That's why you should take action now.
The FTC recommends you contact a credit bureau to see if your child has a credit file – a primary warning sign of child identity theft.
"For a child, there should be no credit file because, as a minor, you can't apply for credit," explained Steve Katz, senior director of consumer affairs at TransUnion credit bureau. "So if these [credit] accounts exist, they've most likely been established by a third party whose using that child's information, and they shouldn't be."
The nation's three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian. and TransUnion – all offer what's called a "minor credit file check" for you to investigate the status of your child's credit. The credit bureaus will conduct a file check for free. (Details and instructions below.)
"It's a very easy process. You simply go to our website … there's a secure form you can fill out and send to us. We'll respond to you very quickly if we find a credit file in your child's name and we'll provide you with the next steps," Katz told WTHR earlier this year. "We have the ability to go in there and clean up that file so, in the future, any negative items will not impact the child."
TransUnion says its minor credit file checks reveal credit files on approximately 4% of children. With approximately 75 million children (ages 0-17) in the United States, that percentage represents approximately 1.5 million kids who may have improper credit activity – and possible identity theft – linked to their Social Security numbers. The FTC says it is important to identify potential problems early.
"Before a child reaches the age of 16, parents definitely should see if there is a credit file on their children," said FTC identity protection specialist Steve Toporoff. "That will give some time to remedy problems and to clean up the child's credit file so, by the time they reach 18, they will have a clean credit history going forward."
Resources to check your child's credit file:
TransUnion online Child Identity Theft Inquiry Form (This allows you to apply online)
Experian info/instructions for Minor Child Credit Check (You must print a form and send it)