I’M NOT WHO YOU THINK I AM. MANY PEOPLE START A NEW IDENTITY IN NEW YORK, AND SOMETIMES THEY DO IT MORE THAN ONCE.
Why start over with a new identity?
Christopher Robin has no desire to start over. He is a real estate mogul worth a million dollars who dates models and wears shoes made in Belgium. He has a fancy loft in Manhattan and drives a truck made just for him. But even people with a lot of money can end up with bad credit.
So Robin is buying a new name, good credit, and a new identity from an AIDS patient near the end of his life. Robin (not his real name) is one of many New Yorkers who have put their past behind them and started over as someone else without, bad credit, or a criminal record.
Robin says, “If you are willing to pay for the last years of a man’s life who has a terminal illness, you can just take over his identity.” “If you paid them $10,000 or $15,000, why wouldn’t they let you use their name?”
Buying a name from a man about to die is just one way to create a new identity
“Almost anyone can make their program to protect witnesses if they have some money, a new birth certificate, driver’s license, Social Security number, and passport. People get a new name for as many different reasons as they have different names. Teenagers use fake IDs to look like they are old enough to drink.
People who are here illegally use them to get jobs. Con artists use them to fake checks and steal money from state welfare agencies. Terrorists and people on the run use new names to talk about the police. Experts say that New York is the best place to start over, no matter the reason.
“New York is great for people who want to stay anonymous because they can come and go without anyone knowing,” says Bo Dietl, who used to be a homicide detective and now runs the largest private investigative firm in the city. He says, “You never talk to your next-door neighbor.” “On the street, no one sees you. It’s easy to get lost around here.
The Back story
“Christopher Lynch”, who became Robin, was born in Manhattan in 1952. His parents were wealthy. When he was seven years old, his parents got a nasty divorce, and his mother, who got custody, made him use her maiden name. In his childhood, people called him Christopher Raven. But when he was a teenager, his father died, and Christopher started calling himself a Lynch again as a sign of respect. Then, when he was in his 30s, he got a divorce from his wife.
It was a bad breakup that cost a lot of money and left him with a bad credit history and a bad taste in his mouth every time his ex-wife says his name. So he changed it again, this time with the help of a lawyer. The lawyer opened a checking account and a credit card named Christopher Robin.
After a few months of getting mail addressed to Robin at one of his homes, he was able to get a Social Security number and a driver’s license with his new name. He said that everything he does is legal and that he pays taxes on all of his different identities. Robin/Lynch/Raven said, “You can use any name you want. You can call yourself Halami Salami if you want.” “Just pay all of your taxes and any debts you owe, and you won’t be cheating anyone.
The Government can help, sort of
“With the help of the government, gangsters have been able to start new lives for decades after giving up their fellow criminals. But the government is known for not saying much about how each disappearance is done. People who go to work every day get new IDs the old-fashioned way, by searching graveyards for people who died around the same time they did.
They take the name and date of birth to the nearest county clerk’s office and say they need a copy of the birth certificate. Then, they use the birth certificate to apply for a Social Security number, ensuring that all the new documents are sent to the same address. Then, they apply for a license to drive.
The U.S. passport is the best new ID card when everything else is in order
“There is no way to link all of these documents together,” says Dietl. “When I’m looking for someone, I usually find that they have two or three Social Security cards.
“A spokeswoman for the Social Security Administration, Lovell Brigham, says it’s not as easy as people think to get a fake ID number. She says that in 2020, Social Security number fraud was the reason for more than 86% of the criminal convictions made by the agency. Brigham says, “There is a lot of fraud with Social Security numbers.” “But things aren’t as easy as they used to be.
“Brigham says that replacement cards are now made with pre-printed banknote paper that is specially designed. This makes it harder to make a copy. People with less time and money used to be able to buy fake IDs in Times Square, but those stores were cleaned out along with the rest of the shady places as part of Mayor Guiliani’s plan to improve the quality of life.
Kevin Farrell, chief of detectives for the NYPD in Manhattan, says, “The old places to buy fake documents, like shady novelty shops, are gone, but the rise of computers has made it easier to make fake documents.” He is correct.
Searching the net
A search of the Internet turned up companies like Global Money Consultants of Greece, which says it can help you forget your past and start a new, “tax-free” life. Elite International Services of Canada goes further and says it can get you a diplomatic appointment.
“People should remember, though, that taking on a new identity sounds very exotic and can be done without too much trouble, but it would be hard to make it last,” Farrell says. But that doesn’t stop a lot of how-to books from showing up on bookshelves across the country. A manager at the Barnes and Noble in Chelsea says that is the most-read one, “How to make a new name for yourself”
“The author is unknown. There are also books on how to find lost souls for people who work on the other side of the street, like “Find Them Fast, Find Them Now: Private Investigators Share Their Secrets for Finding Missing People”.
Aubrey Cox was hiding out in Harlem last month
The police didn’t need to look in a book to find her. They just kept track of where his disability checks went. Cox, a 75-year-old grandfather and former building superintendent from Manhattan, escaped from a Virginia chain gang in 1956 and lived in New York under the name Curtis Brown for more than 40 years.
Even his wife, who married him two years after escaping the chain gang, didn’t know his real name. Elizabeth Brown says, “His brother and sister used to call him Aubrey.” “I thought it was a name because I was young and from the South.
“It was better than a nickname for police officers because it was the name on the disability checks that “Curtis Brown” was cashing. Not everyone pretends to be someone else and tries to get around the rules.
Women being abused often go underground to get away from their abusers. Americans have trouble pronouncing the names of many immigrants, so they often change their names to sound like Ellis Island.
But almost everyone who goes missing for a strange reason has something in common: they are all alone. Most of the time, that loneliness gives them away. Dietl says, “Everyone wants to talk to their moms.” Most of the time, that’s how we find them when they talk to friends or family.
“But no new identity can’t be messed up. Even Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, who betrayed Dapper Don John Gotti and helped bring him down, could have blown the cover the government gave him. Farrell says, “Sammy the Bull is wearing a disguise and has changed how he looks, but he is still following the law.
“But if he went back to being a criminal and was caught by the police, or even if he was in a car accident, he would make people wonder. “A lot of people do go missing,” he says. “The trick is not to be found.