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Man says crimes done by impostor

Since his wallet was stolen a year ago, a Sunday school teacher has been jailed and fingerprinted, accused of loitering, resisting arrest, grand theft _ crimes that may be the work of an impostor. Even prosecutors and police have begun to believe Matthew Messier, 28, who contends someone is impersonating him.

The nightmare began in April 1990 when someone stole Messier's wallet at a restaurant counter in nearby Winter Park.

He canceled his credit cards, but says someone used his driver's license to assume his identity, steal his money and commit crimes, including grand theft.

"I teach Sunday school and here I am getting locked up," said Messier, after he was hauled off to the Seminole County Jail in his business suit. He spent four hours in custody Wednesday and had to post a $200 bond to get out.

"It was scary. I have never been in jail," said the Orlando real estate agent. "It is a different lifestyle."

Seminole Assistant State Attorney George McCormick is reviewing the case and said all charges against Messier could be dropped.

"I would hate to be arrested again. I am kind of nervous," said Messier, who cringes when he sees police because he does not know what to expect next.

Messier first suspected something was wrong a few months ago when Eckerd Drug Store officials in Miami sent a letter accusing him of stealing a T-shirt.

Then three weeks ago, Messier got a letter from Southeast Bank informing him that seven of his checks had bounced. Someone had withdrawn about $2,000 from his accounts. Messier has straightened out the mistake with the bank and his creditors.

The final straw came Monday when he received a letter saying he failed to show up for a May 17 arraignment on charges of loitering and prowling and resisting arrest outside a Lake Mary convenience store.

That was it. Messier called the state attorney's office and was told to be in court Wednesday. When he showed up, deputies arrested him. They said he was wanted in Ocala on a grand theft charge.

McCormick plans to compare photos of short-haired, clean-shaven Messier and the suspected impostor, who was photographed with long hair and a beard in April when charged with loitering and prowling and resisting arrest outside a convenience store. The suspect identified himself as Messier.

The Seminole County Sheriff's Office also is trying to help Messier by finding fingerprints of the impersonator for comparison.

"There is a striking similarity between whoever is doing this to him and him," McCormick said.

The mistake has embarrassed and worried Messier, said Emogene Marshall, secretary for the Concord Street Church of Christ in Orlando, where Messier works with teen-agers.

"It has been such a terrible thing for him. He was devastated, but he is coming around," she said.