A citizen of a small Caribbean nation successfully lived under a false identity in the U.S. for decades, federal officials say. He now faces deportation.

At some point in the late ‘90s, St. Lucia citizen Adrian Joseph, now 55, obtained identifying documents stolen from an incarcerated American man, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Connecticut and related charging documents.

Joseph then assumed the identity of the American citizen and lived in Bridgeport, Connecticut, for approximately 20 years, according to the release. He also worked as a union carpenter in New York, according to court documents.

An attorney for Joseph could not be reached by McClatchy News for comment.

But attorneys wrote in a memo to the court ahead of his sentencing that Joseph obtained the documents through a “shadowy organization” and that he did not know the identity belonged to a real person.

“Mr. Joseph did not use his new identity for nefarious purposes. He used it to join a union, to get a job, and to provide for a family,” attorneys wrote.

Over time Joseph applied for and acquired further identifying documents using his stolen identity, including an American passport, a Social Security card and a voter registration card, according to the release.

In 2020, he used his phony documents to apply for and obtain a Connecticut driver’s license.

He also “accumulated a significant criminal history” while living under the stolen identity, and spent time in jail on accusations of disorderly conduct, harassment and assault, charging documents state.

In early 2022, Joseph had been made aware of an active federal warrant for his arrest and later fled to Miami. Upon returning to Connecticut, the U.S. Marshals Service “apprehended [him] while hiding in an attic-level apartment in a house in Ansonia on January 25, 2022,” according to charging documents.

He pleaded guilty to false representation of a Social Security account number and use of a passport secured by a false statement in August and was sentenced to around nine months in prison — time already served — on Oct. 25. He now faces deportation, according to the release.

In a victim impact statement, the man who’s identity had been stolen wrote that the theft had negatively impacted his credit, prevented him from obtaining a driver’s license and limited his ability to travel on account of “the warrants that [were] attached to my identity,” according to charging documents. He stressed the need to get his identity restored, “so I can live the rest of my golden years with my grandchildren.”

Identity theft is common in the United States, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. In 2018, the most recent year with data available, about 9% of people ages 16 and older, or roughly 23 million U.S. residents, reported that they had been victims of identity theft during the previous year.

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