November 22, 2014

Mistaken identity leads to jail time

2-24-2007 Wisconsin:

Man released after being confused with illegal immigrant, sex offender

Heriberto Tirado is the first to admit he's no saint.

But he's also not an illegal immigrant or a convicted child molester.

The 49-year-old Cudahy man spent six nights in jail this month on suspicion of both, in what has turned out to be a bizarre case of mistaken identity involving a twice-deported Mexican national.

Federal agents resolved the confusion this week. And the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department said it's taking steps to make sure the error isn't repeated.

But Tirado's family is skeptical. And Tirado filed a notice of claim Friday against the county and the Sheriff's Department seeking compensatory damages of $25,000.

"This is going to happen again and again," said Anna Sanchez, Tirado's longtime companion, who contends he's been trying for years to get the Social Security Administration to address his claims of a stolen identity. "Every time this person does something, they're going to come after him."

"This person" is Heriberto Matias - or Miguel Rodriguez, or Juan Zayas, or any one of the 25 aliases he's used over the years, according to John Nienhardt, a special agent in the Milwaukee office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Matias, who authorities say has used Tirado's birth date, address and Social Security number, has a 1997 conviction for second-degree sexual assault of a child. He served two years in a federal prison for re-entering the country after deportation and was sent back to Mexico in June 2004, Nienhardt said.

Tirado, a U.S. citizen born in Puerto Rico, has had his own troubles with the law, including a 2003 conviction for drug trafficking.

"But I'm not a child molester," Tirado said from his Cudahy home.

County sheriff's detectives arrested Tirado on Feb. 14 at the federal courthouse after he had been summoned by the Social Security Administration for what he thought was a resolution of a claim. He was directed from there to the courthouse, where he was handcuffed by detectives.

Tirado was arrested on four outstanding warrants - three involving municipal traffic tickets, and the fourth, against Matias, for failing to register as a sex offender.

News that Matias was arrested triggered an immigration hold that would have led to his deportation, a prospect that terrified Tirado's family.

"How can they do that if he's from Puerto Rico?" said Sanchez's daughter Denise Calaff-Garcia, as the family frantically tried to win his release. "We are legal citizens of the United States."

Part of the problem, Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Kim Brooks said, was that Tirado has used the name Matias in past encounters with police. When the jail ran his prints, she said, they matched his own in the system and listed Matias as an alias.

Tirado denies using Matias, part of his family name, in the more than 20 years he's lived in the Milwaukee area.

Nienhardt said it was quickly apparent to agents that Tirado might not be their man. For starters, he claimed to be Puerto Rican, not Mexican. Tirado was missing Matias' distinctive tattoos, and their criminal histories didn't match, he said.

"We ran his fingerprints, and the FBI numbers were not the same, so we released him," Nienhardt said.

Brooks said the Sheriff's Department could have cleared Tirado earlier if it had the same information. Both the warrant and immigration hold documents included just basic data about Matias, and neither listed his FBI number, she said.

A Milwaukee County Circuit Court commissioner dismissed the charge against Tirado on Thursday.

Now Tirado said he just he wants to get back to work. He learned Friday that he will keep his job assembling wheels for airplanes. The company needed corporate approval because the jail stint caused him to miss more than the approved three days of work.

"That is a relief," Tirado said Friday. "I have three children, and they are relying on me." ..Source.. by Annysa Johnson

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