California Man Poses as Woman for 13 Years, Accused of Identity Theft

Police mugshots of Perla Serrano, 51, a homeless man arrested in California and accused of posing as a woman to get medical care. Images: Orange County Sheriff's Department

By Melissa Morrissette

A man accused of stealing and using a woman's identity for 13 years has been arrested - but not before racking up thousands of dollars in medical bills and creating a living nightmare for his victim, say authorities.

Perla Serrano was found by a deputy in San Clemente, Calif., sleeping in a public area in violation of a city ordinance. The deputy believed the 51-year-old homeless man was a woman, but grew suspicious when he saw a hospital wristband with a different name.

"The deputy called San Clemente Hospital and was informed by San Clemente personnel that the person was actually a man, not a woman," said Orange County Sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino.

According to authorities, Serrano came into possession of a piece of identification belonging to the victim, who is only being named publicly as Perla K. He was able to use it to get a health care card in her name, they said. In the felony complaint, Serrano and the victim share the same first name.

"The suspect has been charging medical services at as many as four hospitals in south Orange County and the damage is expected to be well over $100,000," said Amormino. "He has 6-10 aliases that we know of, but so far we only know of one victim."

Serrano was held on $20,000 bail pending arraignment. He faces six charges, including grand theft, commercial burglary, and identity theft.

"The victim has had to make several court appearances to clear up several arrest warrants over the years for crimes she didn't commit. I am sure she is just happy it's over," said Amormino.