In the 1970s it was much easier to take on a new identity than it is today. Assume the name of someone who died young and didn’t create much of a paper trail, and won’t be using it, Perhaps someone that didn’t get a social security number when they were born (it was much more common then). Get a copy of their birth certificate, apply for a social security card.
I knew someone that did this, and not the guy in Catch Me If You Can.
Now what’s far more common is to create a synthetic identity. However a man recently died who ‘did it right’ when he did wrong. He robbed a bank and then took on a new identity. He cut ties with his former life, never told anyone until his death bed, and didn’t draw undo attention to himself.
A United Airlines flight attendant, living under an assumed name, was recently caught. Airline cabin crew go through security checks, and this one applied and re-applied over the years for passports. That’s what did him in.
Ricardo Cesar Guedes was born in Brazil in 1972, but took on the name of William Ericson Ladd – born 1974 and who died in a car wreck at age 4 – and obtained a passport. He shorted his name to Eric Ladd. He became a United Airlines flight attendant and worked for the airline for 23 years. In the meantime he renewed his passport several times and obtained a U.S. residency permit for his partner since he was – of course – a ‘citizen’.
However when he sought to have his passport renewed in 2020 a fraud alert was triggered. Investigators tracked down his real identity and questioned the mother of the ‘real’ late Eric Ladd (that must have been a traumatic conversation for her). And since flight attendant Eric Ladd had to provide finger prints to become a United flight attendant, authorities were able to compare those to finger prints in Brazil.
Federal agents waited for him at the Known Crewmember checkpoint in Houston where he would be going to start a trip. And because he had gained access to that using a false identity, those were additional charges in addition to immigration-related ones. Side note: Texas Governor Abbott’s wall wouldn’t have kept him out.
Catch Me If You Can portrays Frank Abagnale, among other things, impersonating a Pan Am pilot. It’s far easier to impersonate a flight attendant, or at least impersonate someone who then gets hired and trained as a flight attendant. After more than two decades Eric Ladd probably thought he was in the clear. Life lesson: if you’re going to do this, stay away from government checks, don’t go into a career that requires them repeatedly.