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It’s expensive to get wrongly accused

April L. Campos was at work one day last March when she was notified that police had shown up at her home with a warrant for her arrest on four different felony charges, and that she had until midnight to turn herself in.

It seemed that someone had cashed a couple of checks in her name, and they turned out to be bogus.

Campos immediately assumed that she had been the victim of identity theft. Someone must have stolen her information and opened a bank account in her name and started cashing bad checks around town.

So later that day Campos turned herself in, and after a few hours in jail was released on her own recognizance. She went to court the next day and then hired a lawyer to get it all straightened out.

Indeed, her lawyer did get it straightened out. Within about three weeks, before Campos even had to make another court appearance, the prosecution asked the court to dismiss the case.

What is curious, though, is how Campos even got caught up in a case involving bad checks, and how she has to spend thousands of dollars to clear her name when she shouldn’t have been involved at all.

The case started last December, when one or more people cashed several different bogus checks at a market on the south side of Fort Wayne.

One woman cashed two checks that day, one for $475 and another for $575. What is curious is that the name on the checks wasn’t April Campos. The name on the check was similar, but as the investigation progressed, police, for some reason, added a letter to the last name on the check, changed the middle initial and then contacted the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to get a copy of April L. Campos’ driver’s license and license photo.

Later, an employee of the business where the checks were cashed identified Campos as the person who had cashed the checks a month earlier.

Campos’ lawyer produced various pieces of evidence to show she couldn’t have been the person who cashed the checks, which is what led to the case being thrown out.

We all know that mistakes happen, and we’ve all heard stories about how people can be incorrectly identified.

The end result in this case, though, is that a person who was uninvolved in the fraud had been wrongly dragged into the case and now has a criminal history of being arrested on four different felonies. Even though the case was dismissed at the prosecution’s request, those charges are still part of the record, and that’s the kind of thing that can come back to haunt someone years down the line.

What is also curious is that Allen County actually has an outstanding warrant for a person who has the same name, including a middle initial, as the one that appeared on the bogus checks.

Campos’ lawyer has filed paperwork to have her record expunged, meaning any record of her arrest will be removed, but that will take time, up to a year, Campos said.

And the whole process is costing Campos money, many times as much as the bogus checks that were cashed.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter (@FrankGrayJG).

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