GEORGETOWN, IN (WAVE) - A missing license turned into criminal charges for a southern Indiana man after an acquaintance stole his identity.
Justin Pettit, 25, of Georgetown, Indiana, had not only been accused of crimes but technically booked into jail without ever setting foot behind bars.
How? According to Pettit, someone else had been breaking the law in his name for years. Consequently, at first glance, Pettit appeared to have a pretty extensive rap sheet.
"Mainly shoplifting and I know there's some drug charges," said Justin Pettit.
The problem: Pettit said he never committed the crimes.
"With a beard, I mean, we both almost looked exactly alike," he said.
"This young man had been using Justin's identity every time he got arrested," said John Pettit, Justin's father.
As such, when the Pettits recently saw Justin's name associated with yet another crime, they found themselves frustrated but not surprised. This time, however, the Pettits would catch a break.
"Y'all had a news broadcast on your Facebook talking about a Justin Lee Pettit being arrested for breaking into cars," said John Pettit. "The person that owned the car saw it being broken into and held him until the police got there."
Sure enough, it wasn't Justin. Police have since identified the car burglary suspect as Logan Rudolph.
"Logan Rudolph, he's friends with a lot of my friends that I used to hang out with in high school," said Justin Pettit. "He came over with some friends and ended up stealing my ID and nothing really happened at first."
It wasn't until several years later that the Pettits said they noticed the first of several red flags.
"There was a ticket that was supposedly sent in his name for speeding," began John Pettit, "and it wasn't Justin because we know where he was at that time."
It's signs like that Indiana Attorney General Office Consumer Protection Director Abby Kuzman encouraged everyone to look out for.
"Protect yourself by checking out your information," said Kuzman. "Look at your bills. Make sure there's nothing weird about them. Make sure nobody is charging something with your credit cards."
For Justin, clearing his name while reclaiming his identity had been an uphill battle.
"Trying to pass a background check took probably about two or three weeks," said Pettit.
"It has made it tough," said John Pettit. "We had to go to court last August of 2013, hire a lawyer, spend a good deal of money to get judge's order just to get his finger prints taken, submitted into the judicial system hopefully to clear all the cases.
While the cases are being cleared, Pettit said his son's name remained on file.
"Every time Logan's arrested, the master name in the prison system is Justin's name and we're having a big battle trying to get that changed," said Pettit. "We've proved to them who we are. Now we'd like them to follow through."
It's a fight the Pettits remained determined to win in hopes of restoring Justin's identity to its rightful owner.
The Pettits said they are currently waiting for a judge to sign off on an expungement order that would remove Justin's name from Rudolph's master file. As of Wednesday evening, messages to Logan Rudolph seeking comment had not been returned.
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