PROVO — Although the man accused of stealing her small daughter's identity is in police custody, a West Jordan mother now faces the task of cleaning up the chaos he left behind.

"This is a mess," said Erika Tedder. "(I didn't realize) how much work it really is to clean up these . . . crimes."

Tedder applied for Medicaid for her 9-year-old daughter in July — but was told her daughter didn't qualify because the child was already earning income on her Social Security number.

Her daughter, Olivia, surely didn't have a job.

So, Tedder contacted the Department of Workforce Services, who put her in touch with the Utah Attorney General's Office.

After investigating the case, the Attorney General's Office filed charges May 30 in 4th District Court against Armando Tavara-Briones, 47, an illegal immigrant from Peru who apparently had been using Olivia's number to work in Utah County since 2002.

The man was arrested Tuesday night in Springville where he was using a forged Social Security card and all the necessary documents to work in the United States, said Lt. Kevin Pepper with the Utah Attorney General's Office. Pepper is assigned to the FBI Identity Theft Task Force.

Tavara-Briones is in the Utah County Jail for investigation of forgery and identity fraud. He also has a non-bailable immigration hold.

Pepper is now working with Tedder to help her get her daughter's financial life back in order. Tavara-Briones had not only been working using Olivia's number, but he also had obtained more than $10,000 in loans.

"(Utah Attorney General Mark) Shurtleff has made this a priority, to take care of children's Social Security numbers that have been compromised, and that's exactly what I'm doing," Pepper said.

Pepper estimates there are almost 1,500 cases that he could be working right now involving stolen numbers from Utah children. And most parents of those children don't know the numbers are being used.

Utah's Attorney General's Office also filed fraud charges on May 30 against an 18-year-old working in Utah County using the Social Security number of a 2-year-old child from Blanding. The man has not yet been arrested.

"Identity theft is the fastest-growing crime in the United States right now," Pepper said. "Anybody and everybody can be a victim — alive or dead, from a child to an elderly adult."

Pepper's advice to parents is to shred every document that contains personal numbers or financial information.

Tedder also recommends to parents to check their own financial history in addition to the financial history of their children to make sure their Social Security numbers haven't been stolen.

"Regardless of their circumstances, they're breaking the law, and my daughter is going to have to pay for it," Tedder said.


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