WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An illegal immigrant accused of assuming the persona of a Texas teacher pleaded guilty Monday in a case that put a face on the growing crime of “total identity theft” in the United States.
Benita Cardona-Gonzalez, a Mexican national living in Topeka, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of possessing fraudulent identification documents in a deal with prosecutors that calls for an 18-month prison term.
The 32-year-old was accused of completely assuming the persona of Houston elementary school teacher Candida Gutierrez, who first went public in a story by The Associated Press. Gutierrez recounted how the thief not only opened bank and credit accounts, but assumed her entire persona — using it to get a job, a driver’s license, a mortgage, food stamps and even medical care for the birth of two children. All the while, the crook claimed the real Gutierrez was the one who had stolen her identity.
As part of the plea deal, Cardona-Gonzalez agreed not to contest deportation after serving her sentence.
Defense lawyer Matthew Works said after Monday’s hearing in Wichita that his client was sorry and didn’t intend to harm Gutierrez.
“She wanted to give her children a better life. That is what this is all about,” Works said.
Gutierrez said in a phone interview Monday that she plans to attend the sentencing, which is scheduled for March 25.
“I want to see her face to face. I want to see it actually happening,” Gutierrez said. “After all this time, I am still haunted. I want to be sure she is put away.”
Gutierrez said she would have liked to see Cardona-Gonzalez spend a more than 18 months in prison after everything she put her through. Still, she said she was satisfied with the plea deal because she and her husband want to get the case over with and move on with their lives.
She praised the U.S. attorney’s office in Kansas and said Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Anderson even came to Houston to talk to her about the deal. He returned her original Social Security card and birth certificate, she said.
“They were pretty amazing getting on it once we contacted them,” Gutierrez said. “Brent was informative and helpful. He was very efficient.”
Gutierrez first learned her identity had been hijacked when she was turned down for a mortgage nearly 12 years ago. Both women claimed they were identity theft victims and sought new Social Security numbers. The Social Security Administration turned down the request from Gutierrez, instead issuing a new number to the woman impersonating her. In another twist, Gutierrez was forced to file her federal income tax forms using a special identification number usually reserved for illegal immigrants.
More Related Stories
- If Alex Pareene was a cable news executive...
- El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman's life hangs in the balance
- UK officials: Radical Islam behind London attack
- Pa. governor "can't find" any Latinos to work in his administration
- London machete attack could be linked to terrorism
- Conservative group blames military sexual assault on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal
- Lois Lerner, IRS disaster
- Donald Rumsfeld worried that marriage equality will lead to polygamy
- Experts: Fox News spying scandal a game-changer
- San Francisco Giant Jeremy Affeldt apologizes for homophobic past
- 9-year-old slams Rahm over Chicago schools
- Stockholm riots rage for third day
- Wall Street firm's "Golden Pitchbook" is totally sexist, full of lies
- Must-see morning clip: Toronto's eccentric and allegedly crack-smoking mayor
- Federal court strikes down Arizona abortion ban
- Jodi Arias: I deserve a second chance
- Oklahoma residents return home to pick up the pieces
- Florida man with connection to Tsarnaev killed by FBI
- FBI identifies 5 Benghazi suspects
- Here come the tornado truthers. Already
- Peace Corps to allow gay couples to volunteer together
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11