Texas man's identity assumed by another Credit report leads to Md. man's arrest

December 06, 1992|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Staff Writer

Dogged by his status as an illegal alien and a string of arrests, Eduardo E. Arguello of Charles County decided a couple of years ago to make a fresh start in life. Police say he did -- with another man's name, Social Security number and good credit.

In Waldorf, Mr. Arguello has been known to his girlfriend, boss and co-workers as Leon Esquenazi of Holly Tree Lane. For about two years, police allege, Mr. Arguello has been living in three states as Leon Esquenazi, carrying credit cards and driver's licenses, borrowing money and fathering a child under the name of a man who lives in Houston.

Maryland State Police have charged Mr. Arguello with three counts of felony credit card fraud, and he remains free on a $5,000 bond following his arrest last month. Mr. Arguello referred all questions to his lawyer, Tom Simpson of Waldorf, who declined to comment.

Mr. Arguello has been dismissed from his job as a warehouse manager at American Way Van Lines in Waldorf, and the Dodge sports coupe he bought used this fall with a $7,000 loan has been repossessed. After staying out of trouble for two years following several arrests in Sarasota, Fla., his dream of a new life in a new place has unraveled.

"He said he had some problems, criminal problems in Florida," said state police investigator Sgt. Frank Ford. "He was trying to get his life started over again."

Meanwhile, the real Mr. Esquenazi has been through a bureaucratic nightmare tracking the footprints of a man who's been using his name. His once-pristine credit report has been sullied, and he figures he'll continue having trouble getting credit until the record of late payments is cleared.

"What a mess," said Mr. Esquenazi, who works as a drug and alcohol abuse counselor in Houston. "I was shocked when I first saw the credit report."

It was a call from Mr. Esquenazi last month that first brought the case to the attention of Maryland State Police. He had just seen his credit report, showing a charge account with Montgomery Ward. Through the store he got a billing address under his own name in Waldorf.

Mr. Esquenazi has never been in Maryland and never met Mr. Arguello. But the two have a few traits in common: both are Hispanic, both are 30 years old, and both have connections to Brownsville, Texas, the Mexican border town where the story of Mr. Arguello's attempt to remake himself began.

Sergeant Ford, who helped state police investigators in Waldorf, said that Mr. Arguello crossed the border from Mexico into Brownsville 10 years ago and has never become a legal resident of this country.

Don Crocetti, deputy director of the Baltimore office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said records show that Mr. Arguello was arrested for immigration law violations in the southern border city of McAllen, Texas, in 1984 and in Miami in 1990.

While living in Brownsville in 1984, Mr. Arguello obtained a photocopy of Mr. Esquenazi's birth certificate. Mr. Esquenazi was born in Brownsville in 1962.

Sergeant Ford said that Mr. Arguello carried the copy with him when he moved to Sarasota, Fla., where he had worked a series of restaurant jobs. In the spring and summer of 1990, Mr. Arguello ran into trouble with the law.

According to Sarasota police records, he was arrested on

charges of cocaine trafficking and possession of marijuana, car theft and trying to buy marijuana from an undercover officer. With the exception of the attempted marijuana purchase, all the charges were dropped for lack of evidence. Mr. Arguello pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to four days in jail, plus the time he served before trial, according to Assistant State Attorney Craig Pullman.

Sometime after he was released from jail in October 1990, Mr. Arguello apparently pulled out the birth certificate copy and decided to use it. And by March 1991, Mr. Arguello's life as Leon Esquenazi had begun. During that month, he needed emergency treatment at Memorial Hospital in Sarasota and gave hospital officials Mr. Esquenazi's name and date of birth. The unpaid bill came to about $600.

Last January, that bill showed up on Mr. Esquenazi's credit report when he applied for a car loan. It came as a surprise to Mr. Esquenazi, who at the time had never been to Florida. He got another surprise when he called the hospital and the clerk read back his own date of birth and Social Security number.

He straightened out the hospital bill by getting a notarized letter from his supervisor saying he was in Houston on the day the hospital treatment was given. But the episode raised enough suspicion that he visited the Social Security Administration office in Houston. He learned that in 1991 someone applied for and received a duplicate of his Social Security card at the Sarasota office.

"That's when I realized, 'Oh my God, there's someone using my information, saying he's me,' " Mr. Esquenazi said.

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