An 86-year-old Maine resident was found guilty last week of assuming his dead brother’s identity, starting in the mid-1960s, and using it to obtain a second passport and double dip on Social Security benefits.
Napoleon Gonzalez, of Etna, was convicted Friday of one count of identity theft, two counts of passport fraud, two counts of Social Security fraud and one count of mail fraud following a two-day trial before Judge John A. Woodcock, Jr. in U.S. District Court in Bangor.
Court records say Gonzalez first took on the identity of his brother, Guillermo Gonzalez, in 1965. His brother had died as an infant in 1939. Authorities say Gonzalez used the stolen identity to obtain Social Security benefits under both identities, multiple passports, and state identification cards.
The Social Security Administration previously investigated Gonzalez’s benefits in 2010 for potential fraud and his benefits were upheld. A new investigation was launched in 2020 after facial identification software indicated Gonzalez’s face was on two state identification cards.
The facial recognition technology is used by the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles to ensure no one obtains multiple credentials, or credentials under someone else’s name, said Emily Cook, spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office.
“When fraud is detected, the fraudulent transactions are investigated and referred for administrative and/or criminal proceedings. That is what happened with this case,” she said.
Gonzalez has claimed he took on his deceased brother’s identity at the direction of the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations while participating in an undercover operation in the 1960s, according to court documents. He later admitted to faking his death under his own identity and continued with his brother’s identity, the documents indicated.
Gonzalez’s attorney, Harris Mattson, said Tuesday he intends to appeal and will seek to keep his client out prison until the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issues a ruling.
Mattson said he doesn’t think the government proved all the elements of the multiple counts against his client, and he questioned the wisdom of the imposition of a lengthy prison sentence for his client at his advanced age.
A sentencing date has not yet been set for Gonzalez, who remains free.
Gonzalez faces up to 20 years in prison at sentencing, with mail fraud carrying the greatest potential penalty of all the charges.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.