Each year in the United States, there are 15 million cases of identity theft. It can range from a stolen social security number or credit card number to completely taking over someone’s life. The latter is pretty rare, and most people don’t get away with it for very long. Try telling that to Terry Jude Symansky…or should we say, Richard Hoagland.
The story goes back to the early 1990’s when Terry and Mary Symansky moved to Pasco County, Florida, had a son, got a pilot’s license and even bought multiple properties. It turned out that Terry Symansky was actually Richard Hoagland, and that Symansky was the name of a person from Indiana that disappeared in 1991 and was declared dead in 2003.
The records show that Symansky drowned at 33 years old back in 1991, and Hoagland was a friend of Symansky’s father. Hoagland stole Symansky’s identity, and the now 63 year old was arrested for fraudulent use of personal identification. The Pasco County Police arrested him on the charges, and now he is sitting in the county jail.
Not only did Hoagland completely steal away a dead man’s identity, but he also left behind his own life back in Indiana. Hoagland had four children that he left behind and hadn’t talked to them in years. Sheriff Chris Nocco of Pasco County said that Hoagland “is a selfish coward. This is a person who has lived his life destroying others.” He also said that Hoagland’s current family had no idea that he was pretending to be someone else.
Police notified Mary Symansky of what was going on, which prompted her to go through old documents in the family attic. It was there that she found Hoagland’s real identification alongside a storage unit key and a deed to a property in Louisiana. Mary did not want to make a comment with reporters.
Hoagland had been married twice while living in Indiana, and said that he told his second wife he was wanted by the FBI for stealing millions, but he actually had a clean record. Law professor Gerry Beyer said that the case is “Beyond fascinating” and “so different than your normal identity theft cases.”
So how exactly did Hoagland get busted for stealing an identity? It turned out that Terry Symansky’s (the real one) nephew was doing a genealogy project and used Ancestry.com to find that his uncle had passed away in 1991. He then found a marriage license that was issued to the same name years after the fact. The nephew’s family didn’t call police right away, thinking that whoever stole the identity might be dangerous and would come after them.
It was three years before they finally alerted officials into investigating the case, where they found that Hoagland found Symansky’s death certificate and then obtained a birth certificate, which he used to get a driver’s license in Symansky’s name. From there, Hoagland used Symansky’s identity as if it was his own. Now, officials are trying to figure out what the ramifications will be for Hoagland, and how it will affect Mary Symansky. For now, she’s not even sure what her last name is going to be and if she will have to go back and do years worth of taxes.
Gerry Beyer issued a warning to those who thought about committing identity theft, saying “You just never know. It will all catch up with you.”