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Identity thief forged Indiana federal judge's signature

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A convicted identity thief from Indiana with at least four aliases pleaded guilty earlier this week in a Montana federal court on charges that he not only impersonated a military officer and stole multiple identities, but also that he forged court documents last year and signed the name of U.S. Judge David F. Hamilton from the Southern District of Indiana.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana announced Tuesday that Jeremy Clark-Erskine, a 36-year-old resident of both that state and Indiana, pleaded guilty to four counts: forging a U.S. judge’s signature, false presentation of a Social Security number with the intent to deceive, interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle, and aggravated identify theft.

Charging documents and a criminal complaint detail a scheme that appears to have come to light in late August or early September 2009, when Clark-Erskine entered a military base in Montana and tried to obtain a military identification card, ballistic plates, and other Army equipment. He was wearing an Army combat uniform with captain’s rank and Special Forces and other high-ranking badges, and gave the name of Angus Jocko Ferguson. He also gave a false Social Security number and told military personnel that he’d been released from active duty earlier that month and was reassigned to the 19th Special Forces Group in Draper, Utah.

An affidavit supporting the criminal complaint says that Clark-Erskine showed false military orders and documents, and requested an access card by the end of the day. An investigation showed that he’d applied for a Montana driver’s license earlier that month under the name of Ferguson, providing a Tennessee birth certificate and Illinois driver’s license under the name of Michael B. Lafferty II. The Indianapolis FBI Field Office helped in the investigation and found that the man had also gone by the names of Jeremiah Ui’Neill and Finn Jeremiah Keenan in recent months.

The real Michael Lafferty told investigators that Clark-Erskine had stayed with him earlier in the year under the name of Finn Jeremiah Keenan, and that he had ultimately learned that someone was using his bank account information to make purchases and write fraudulent checks. Documents and records tied all the false identities together, and fingerprints showed his true identity as Clark-Erskine.

Though he has aliases, state and federal dockets show that Clark-Erskine is no stranger to Indiana’s court system. The Indiana Department of Correction lists him as being first convicted and sentenced in November for three felony forgery charges, and also sentenced for felony theft in March 2009. But in June, he escaped from jail and a Marion County Sheriff’s warrant for his arrest went out in his name. Five federal habeas or related claims appear in both of Indiana’s federal courts sine 2003, the most recent being a case dismissed in March 2009 by Judge Hamilton, then serving as chief judge for the Southern District.

A grand jury indictment that originally listed 13 counts says that when the federal investigators searched the car he was driving – reported stolen out of Chicago – they found inside phony documents, including two fraudulent court records dated Aug. 4, 2009 – an “Entry” and “Judgment” which would allow him to obtain a new Social Security number. Both had the forged signature of Judge Hamilton, false case numbers, and what appeared to be a seal from the Southern District of Indiana, according to court documents.

That vehicle was ultimately discovered in January in California, where Clark-Erskine was arrested.

While it’s only one charge against him, the penalty for forging a federal judge’s signature according to Title 18 U.S.C. § 505 is five years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and three years supervised release. Clark-Erskine faces a total of 10 years in prison for the four charges, as well as a mandatory two-year imprisonment for aggravated identity theft. Sentencing is set for July 21 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch.
 

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  1. I can understand a 10 yr suspension for drinking and driving and not following the rules,but don't you think the people who compleate their sentences and are trying to be good people of their community,and are on the right path should be able to obtain a drivers license to do as they please.We as a state should encourage good behavior instead of saying well you did all your time but we can't give you a license come on.When is a persons time served than cause from where I'm standing,its still a punishment,when u can't have the freedom to go where ever you want to in car,truck ,motorcycle,maybe their should be better programs for people instead of just throwing them away like daily trash,then expecting them to change because they we in jail or prison for x amount of yrs.Everyone should look around because we all pay each others bills,and keep each other in business..better knowledge equals better community equals better people...just my 2 cents

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  3. I expressed my thought in the title, long as it was. I am shocked that there is ever immunity from accountability for ANY Government agency. That appears to violate every principle in the US Constitution, which exists to limit Government power and to ensure Government accountability. I don't know how many cases of legitimate child abuse exist, but in the few cases in which I knew the people involved, in every example an anonymous caller used DCS as their personal weapon to strike at innocent people over trivial disagreements that had no connection with any facts. Given that the system is vulnerable to abuse, and given the extreme harm any action by DCS causes to families, I would assume any degree of failure to comply with the smallest infraction of personal rights would result in mandatory review. Even one day of parent-child separation in the absence of reasonable cause for a felony arrest should result in severe penalties to those involved in the action. It appears to me, that like all bureaucracies, DCS is prone to interpret every case as legitimate. This is not an accusation against DCS. It is a statement about the nature of bureaucracies, and the need for ADDED scrutiny of all bureaucratic actions. Frankly, I question the constitutionality of bureaucracies in general, because their power is delegated, and therefore unaccountable. No Government action can be unaccountable if we want to avoid its eventual degeneration into irrelevance and lawlessness, and the law of the jungle. Our Constitution is the source of all Government power, and it is the contract that legitimizes all Government power. To the extent that its various protections against intrusion are set aside, so is the power afforded by that contract. Eventually overstepping the limits of power eliminates that power, as a law of nature. Even total tyranny eventually crumbles to nothing.

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