NEW PORT RICHEY — Thomas J. Dolan has never been arrested in Pinellas County and has never been to prison.
But for the past few years, he has struggled to break free from a tether that keeps him bound to a criminal past that isn't his.
In 2001, Dolan's Social Security card, credit cards and driver's license were stolen out of his car. He reported the crime to the Pasco Sheriff's Office that same day, but some of his cards were still used. Years passed, and the incident fell from his mind.
After he was laid off from his telemarketing job in 2007, Dolan went back to school. With a nursing degree in hand, he thought finding employment would be easy. It wasn't. Even though he sent out scores of applications and had an active nursing license, he got nothing. With no income and climbing debt, he fell into a financial pit and eventually filed for bankruptcy.
It wasn't until he went to a life coach that he heard the horrifying truth — another man had been arrested under his name.
The long trail of consequences of having his identity stolen recently led Dolan, 57, to the west Pasco courthouse, where he sat alone, waiting for a judge to call his name and possibly take away his house.
For four years, he's been scrimping and borrowing and praying, but now he wondered if it would all be for nothing.
"I feel like a failure," he said.
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"These two guys are going to be tied together forever," said Bruce Bartlett, chief assistant state attorney for the Pinellas-Pasco circuit.
Bartlett said he sees cases of identity theft "pretty regularly," but generally, they involve someone's family member posing as a relative. Dolan's, he said, is uncommon because a man Dolan never met went to jail under his name.
Exacerbating the issue, Dolan said, is the Internet. Anyone who Googles him sees a mugshot of a Hispanic man with a thick mustache and dark hair — he looks nothing like Dolan. That picture is also on the Department of Corrections website and Mugshots.com, under Dolan's name.
Dolan cleared his record with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, but digital traces remain.
The Times ran a public records check on Dolan through an aggregation service and found charges related to a DUI arrest and a picture of the Hispanic man.
Dolan thinks that's why he can't get a job.
"I don't know how you get anything off of the Internet," said Bartlett.
Cases of identity theft are all too common in Florida, which leads the nation, according to the Florida Attorney General's office.
The Federal Trade Commission released statistics saying Florida reported 69,795 complaints in 2012. The numbers are not skewed by gender, race, age or socioeconomic status — anyone is vulnerable.
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In June 2005, a Pinellas Park police officer pulled over a man for driving on the wrong side of the road. A report said the man had glassy eyes and barely spoke English. He gave the officer a license with the name Sabino Jaramillo-Delgado. The officer took him to jail on a DUI charge.
Years before, Jaramillo-Delgado had been arrested on a separate DUI and provided a valid driver's license bearing Dolan's name.
This time, when Jaramillo-Delgado was fingerprinted, that old license turned up in the records. Jaramillo-Delgado, as "Dolan," was charged with possessing a fake ID, DUI and driving on a suspended license.
He spent time in prison, and there is currently a warrant out for his arrest. Dolan said he was told Jaramillo-Delgado left the country.
Bartlett said he was surprised Jaramillo-Delgado was able to get a valid license in someone else's name. He said while the State Attorney's Office investigated the case, it requested old fingerprints for Jaramillo-Delgado from an out-of-state arrest, but never got them. They prosecuted him under both names with an "also known as" stipulation.
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Dolan eventually gave up sending out job applications online. He grew tired of never getting calls back, even though he always felt like he nailed his interviews.
Now, he's clawing through bureaucratic webs to try and remove the links to Jaramillo-Delgado, but it may never happen. Mugshots.com, for example, is a private company and can charge hundreds of dollars to remove information. The state Department of Corrections won't take down online information without a court order.
At the hearing before Circuit Judge William H. Burgess, who didn't allow a Times reporter to attend, Dolan pleaded his case. He told the judge he couldn't pay his mortgage because of the identity theft.
The judge questioned Dolan about how the two events were related, and he eventually scheduled a future hearing in the foreclosure case.
Dolan knows he may be tied to Jaramillo-Delgado forever. He just wants a chance to get a good job with his degree and dig himself out of the hole.
He walked out of the courthouse, feeling the tether tighten.
"I hate playing the part of the victim," he said. "But I need help here."
Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.