The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is investigating how an inmate — already charged with forgery — apparently forged his way out of the Pinellas County Jail, using an authentic-looking document and an accomplice.
Nydeed Nashaddai's freedom lasted about half a day, but the investigation into how he pulled it off is continuing.
"It's somewhat incredible when you think about it, or ironic. Here's a gentleman in jail for forgery and he forges a document in order to get out of jail," said David Tomlinson of Largo.
Nashaddai, 44, or Pinellas Park, was in jail because he was accused of stealing and cashing some of Tomlinson's checks.
When a prisoner sneaks out through a secret tunnel, the method of escape eventually becomes obvious. But in this case, the technique was more subtle. Nashaddai apparently relied on someone who knew how to write a realistic looking court order, and submit it to the Pinellas County Circuit Court Clerk's Office. That part of the investigation is still under way.
Nashaddai, who says he has struggled with drug addiction for decades, was arrested in August on charges of forging Tomlinson's checks.
But in October, he suddenly seemed to have been cleared. A document ordering that "all charges filed and pending be dismissed," was filed with the clerk's office. It appeared to have been signed by Pinellas-Pasco Chief Judge Thomas McGrady.
Under standard procedure, the document was faxed to the Pinellas County Jail, and Nashaddai was released.
But the document was phony. Pinellas County Clerk Ken Burke said it must have been filed by someone who was not in jail at the time. "Obviously, he had someone who helped him out on this."
When Nashaddai was released from jail in October, an automated system called Tomlinson, as the victim, to let him know. Tomlinson was surprised, so he called the jail and the State Attorney's Office for more information. Prosecutors looked into the matter and quickly discovered Nashaddai shouldn't have been released.
He was rearrested within a day, charged with escape, and is now back in jail — without bail.
"How can a criminal with previous convictions for forgery be released from the jail without someone verifying the release was actually signed by a judge?" Tomlinson wrote in a letter to the court.
Burke said clerks cannot check the handwriting of the 50 judges whose orders they may receive on any given day.
Although the phony order looked good, it did contain a typo. It was called an "Amened Order of Dismissal," instead of amended. But Burke said a typo alone was not enough to raise red flags — typos occur on legitimate documents too, he said.
"That's a pretty good looking document there on the surface," Burke said.
"Obviously it's disappointing," he added, "because you want the system to work like it's supposed to."
After his rearrest, Nashaddai wrote a long letter to another judge, recounting his history of drug addiction and requesting treatment. Referring to the escape charge, he wrote, "it is my hope and prayer that the State Attorney office do not file charges on these claims."
Curtis Krueger can be reached at (727) 893-8232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.