Jury finds Hawaii couple guilty for stealing identities of dead babies
HONOLULU (AP) — A jury has convicted a Hawaii couple of conspiracy, passport fraud and identity theft for stealing identities and living for decades under the names of dead babies.
Jurors deliberated for about two hours before reaching guilty verdicts Monday, according to court records.
The judge presiding over the trial in United States District Court in Honolulu referred to the couple by their preferred names of Bobby Fort and Julie Montague. The couple had argued in court that their actions did not harm anyone.
At the start of the trial, Assistant US Attorney Tom Muehleck said the real Bobby Fort has been dead for more than 50 years. The baby had “a bad cough” and lived three months, Muehleck said.
One of the witnesses who testified was Tonda Montague Ferguson, who said she was in the eighth grade when her mother gave birth to her sister, Julie Montague, in 1968. But the infant had birth defects and died about three weeks later, Ferguson said.
The two babies were buried in Texas cemeteries 15 miles (24 kilometres) apart, Muehleck said.
They had attended the same Texas high school and a classmate who had been in touch with them afterward remembered they stayed with him for a while and said they planned to change their identities because of substantial debt, Muehleck said.
The husband even used his fake identity, which made him 12 years younger, to join the Coast Guard, the prosecutor said.
When they’re sentenced in March, they face maximum 10-year prison terms for charges of making false statements in the application and use of a passport. They face up to five years for conspiracy charges and mandatory two-year consecutive terms for aggravated identity theft.
The case gained attention soon after their arrests last year because prosecutors suggested it was about more than just identity theft. Early on, prosecutors introduced Polaroids of the couple wearing wearing jackets that appear to be authentic KGB uniforms. Lawyers for the couple said they wore the same jacket once for fun and prosecutors later backed away from any Russian spy intrigue.