A homeless man who allegedly stole the identity of a Florida grandfather who spent time in jail for a crime he did not commit will be arraigned today on multiple counts that include identity theft and welfare fraud, police said.
Joseph Kidd is accused of stealing Larry Smith's identity for 17 years, also costing Smith access to his medical benefits. The other charges against Kidd are giving false information to a police officer and grand theft of services.
In 1993, Kidd was arrested and fingerprinted in California for an unspecified, nonviolent crime as "Lawrence E. Smith," beginning a nightmare for the real Lawrence E. Smith, who lives in Lehigh Acres, Fla.
Investigators say they have discovered that Kidd had a birth certificate, a marriage license and even a driver's license with Larry Smith's name on it. He married a woman in 2007 allegedly using the alias.
Amid the confusion, the real Larry Smith has been wrongly ticketed for driving a purple Camaro too fast in 2001, billed $300,000 by Medicare and almost had his driver's license revoked for offenses he didn't commit.
"I spent eight days in jail in 2006 and my wife was on the phone 24-7 saying that it's not me," Smith said. "She sent paycheck stubs from where I was working when these crimes occurred to prove it wasn't me."
Larry Smith said he can't recall ever meeting Kidd and has no idea why the man targeted him.
Kidd, using the name "Lawrence E. Smith," had violated his parole and police nationwide were looking for him in July of 2006, officials said. Florida police apparently thought the real Larry Smith was the wanted man and booked him into an Orlando jail.
"I had no idea what was going on. I kept telling them it wasn't me," Smith, 67, said. "This one police officer in the prison said, 'This prison is full of people that didn't do it' and that was the end of it," Smith said.