Skeptic James 'The Amazing' Randi is renowned as a scourge of paranormal frauds and hoaxers, but it just may be that identity theft isn't one of his areas of expertise. Federal authorities have arrested his partner of more than two decades, 'Jose Luis Alvarez', saying that his identity was stolen from a man in New York some 24 years ago:
Alvarez, who purportedly is 43, was charged with stealing a New York man's date of birth and Social Security number in 1987 to obtain a U.S. passport. A grand jury indicted Alvarez on Wednesday on a charge of passport fraud, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and aggravated identity theft, which automatically tacks two years in prison onto any other sentence.
More immediately pressing for Randi, and Alvarez's attorneys, is securing Alvarez' release from the Broward Main Jail. Prosecutors have said they will seek to have him held without bond. A courtroom showdown is set for next Wednesday, when a judge will consider arguments for and against bail.
For Alvarez to be released, he may have to reveal his true identity, which would be tantamount to an admission of guilt.
"He's in an interesting box," said Jeffrey Neiman, a former federal prosecutor who is now a defense attorney based in Fort Lauderdale. "I can't imagine a magistrate judge giving a bond without knowing who it is they are giving the bond to."
Interestingly, when asked by a reporter if he knew about the alleged identity theft, Randi responded by saying his lawyers had told him "not to comment on our knowledge or lack of knowledge."
The irony in this arrest (beyond the alleged fraudster being the Amazing Randi's partner) is that Alvarez first came to public notice when he pretended to be a channeler of the spirit 'Carlos' in Randi's much-vaunted (not least, by Randi himself) 'sting' for Australian television in 1988. Here's Randi's YouTube summation of the hoax (actual footage starts around 5:40):
So far there has been no official comment from the James Randi Educational Foundation about Alvarez's arrest.
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