Earl Robert Hood, a trucker form Illinois, had his commercial driver's license suspended in 2008 for four DUIs he never even committed. His identity was stolen without him knowing, until he learned about his suspended license fiasco.
Hood immediately lost his job, much of his possessions, and eventually his marriage. With all his bad experience, he wants other truckers to learn from it.
Hood went to Wyoming from his home in Illinois to testify against Danny Arnold Rodgers, a 47-year-old truck driver, who was charged last week of stealing the victim's identity.
Hood said that it was really hard to sit in the same room with the man who wronged him and his family so much. It wasn't a situation that only Hood got affected; it affected all four of his children too. Because of Rodger's crime, Hood's children didn't have Christmas for two years.
According to the prosecutors, Rodgers stole Hood's identity before going on a three-state drunken driving spree in July 2008. In less than two weeks he racked up four DUIs in different states. Prosecutors said that Rodgers, using Hood's name, was cited July 4 in Mitchell, S.D.; July 7 in Deadwood, S.D.; July 8 in Wheatland; and July 13 in Otoe County, Neb.
Ed Buchanan, a Deputy Platte County Prosecuting Attorney, said authorities believe Rodgers is originally a Chicago resident. Eighth Judicial District Judge John C. Brooks sentences Rodgers for more than 30 years in prison for the grounds of forgery, identity theft, and misdemeanor crimes.
In an article published by The Associated Press in 2008 about the string of DUI arrests that authorities then erroneously accused to Hood, it concentrated on how it was possible for a driver to be treated anew as a first-time DUI transgressor, in contempt of being arrested for the same offense days earlier in different jurisdictions.
According to Hood, when Rodgers stole his name, what he actually stole was his life.
Hood, 47, of Tilton, Ill., said it was only when his license was suspended that he learned his identity had been stolen. Truck drivers can't work without a license.
"I've lost everything," Hood said. "It just completely wiped me out."
Hood said he's late on his mortgages, he lets go of his Dodge Durango, and furniture he was paying for in installments.
Hood related how he met Rodgers in early 2008 in a Florida truck stop where Hood stopped for fuel, he was then driving for a Texas company. He said Rodgers approached him and told him he used to work for the same trucking company.
Hood said that the perpetrator declared to manage a small trucking company and offered him work, pledging higher pay and more time at home.
Hood apparently accepted Rodger's offer and he gave Rodgers copies of his commercial driver's license and U.S. Department of Transportation medical card for Rodgers to deliver them to his insurance company. According to Hood turning over such information to prospective employers is a routine among truck drivers.
He said, "I never dreamed in a million years that the guy would take my information and do something like this."
While searching for work in Texas, Hood discovered that his license got suspended. Having a hard time getting a job, he moved to Illinois, where he had family.
In late 2008, Hood contacted the Platte County attorney's office in an attempt to clear his name. He said he still never suspected Rodgers at that time. Hood was briefly incarcerated when he got pulled over by the police for minor traffic violations, and the officer learned that his license was suspended.
Hood's report was investigated by the Wyoming Highway Patrol. Soon enough, the FBI was able to match the fingerprints from the DUI arrest in Wheatland to Rodgers, said Buchanan.
Buchanan said, it was in Louisiana where Rodgers was arrested and extradited to Platte Country last year.
Platte County attorney, Eric Jones, said that Rodgers was charged of similar violations in Georgia. Jones has no knowledge if other states would seek to prosecute Rodgers on the DUI charges.
The state public defender's office lawyer, Kerri Mae Johnson, who will represent Rodgers at the trial, declined to comment on the case.
Early this year Hood was able to get back his commercial driver's license, but has still had a hard time finding work. According to him, Platte County prosecutors armed him with a letter to show to prospective employers explaining he was a victim of identity theft.
"I'm going to keep searching for a good job driving a truck," Hood said. "It's been hard. It's (taken) me from being on top of the world to being on welfare."
Hood warns fellow truck drivers to make sure prospective employers are legitimate before entrusting important documents to them.
"And try to stay away from the smaller trucking companies unless you've got good verification that they are legit," he added.
It really pays to be careful these days. Take it from the experience of Hood, what happened to him changed his whole life... not only his, but his family as well.