Pinellas criminal justice officials were red-faced this week after they admitted a jail inmate facing forgery charges used a bogus court document to escape from jail.
Now comes more embarrassing news: Prosecutors say it may not have been the first time Nydeed Nashaddai used a forged court order to get out from behind bars.
Prosecutors believe Nashaddai also wriggled out of the state prison system in 2007 using another realistic-looking but phony court paper.
If they're right, it means he should have been in prison when he was arrested earlier this year for allegedly stealing and cashing checks.
Authorities also are looking into another case in Hillsborough County to see if forgery was involved in getting a burglary charge against Nashaddai dismissed.
"We're not one bit happy about this situation, and we plan on rectifying it as much as we can," Pinellas-Pasco Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett said. "We've been duped once. So we don't really want it to happen again."
Nashaddai, 44 with five children, says in court papers he has eight years of schooling, three decades of drug problems and a tendency to steal for his habit.
Now, prosecutors are trying to discern if he is so talented a forger that he maneuvered himself out of jail and prison — possibly three times.
In his most recent case, Nashaddai was incarcerated in the Pinellas County Jail on charges that he stole and cashed checks belonging to a Largo man.
But then, in October, a realistic-looking document that seemed to be signed by Pinellas-Pasco Chief Judge Thomas McGrady was filed with the Pinellas County Clerk's Office. It ordered that "all charges filed and pending be dismissed."
Under standard procedure, the document was faxed to the Pinellas jail. The document looked real and Nashaddai was released.
But it was phony. Pinellas Clerk Ken Burke said this week the document must have been filed by an accomplice of Nashaddai's who was not in jail at the time.
When the victim learned Nashaddai had been released, he called prosecutors, who discovered the mistake.
Officials quickly found Nashaddai and rearrested him. Prosecutors added an escape charge against him.
The incident prompted authorities to look into Nashaddai's previous cases.
Though they haven't filed additional charges, Bartlett said they have found evidence that Nashaddai used a similar ruse to escape from prison in 2007.
He had pleaded guilty in Pinellas County that year to burglary and forged check charges and received a five-year prison term.
But he was released from the Gainesville Correctional Institution just nine months later.
While in prison, Nashaddai had filed a motion to correct what he said were sentencing errors. The public court file contains what appear to be legitimate orders signed by McGrady responding to the motion.
One "duplicate amended order" contains a line that authorities are now focusing on because they don't believe it's genuine. It reads: "An additional downward departure to 16 months Florida Department of Corrections … "
In other words, the document, filed in November 2007, said he should be released from prison. And pretty soon he was.
But Bartlett said "there's no court activity that was documented to support that reconsideration of sentence.
"I think that he dummied up another order," Bartlett said.
Florida Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said the prison system in 2007 received the court order appearing to cap Nashaddai's sentence at 16 months, then worked to verify it.
The DOC contacted the Pinellas clerk's office, which said it did not have an original order saying Nashaddai should only serve 16 months, Plessinger said. But she said officials contacted McGrady's office, and "at that point the judge issued a duplicate amended order."
McGrady said Friday that he could not comment on the case.
Bartlett said he believes that authorities will get to the bottom of it and that Nashaddai will serve every day he should have.
"By appearances it would suggest that he still has quite a bit more time to serve and we anticipate helping him to fulfill that obligation," he said.