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 think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.