Innocent man may be labeled a sex offender for 'rest of his life'

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on July 21, 2010 at 4:08 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 21 at 5:25 PM

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. -- It has been a nightmare for Dan Wheeler for 15 years. It started with his wallet being stolen from his truck, and his identity stolen. Usually the trouble that follows has to do with bank or credit fraud, but Wheeler says his identity was stolen by a sex offender who was arrested and used Wheeler's name as an alias. 

"It's been absolutely miserable," said Wheeler.

About five years ago the Port Orchard man was stopped for making an illegal left turn.

"The officer told me to get out of the car and I was under arrest," said Wheeler.  "I asked why and he said I was a wanted sex offender. I couldn't believe it." 

Since then, Wheeler has been fighting desperately to get his identity back.  He has a difficult timing getting any kind of job that involves a background check, and was recently rejected as a foster parent -- all because of a case of stolen identity. 

"I've been to police and prosecutors and they all tell me there's nothing that can be done," said Wheeler. 

He may be right. A spokesman for the Washington State Patrol, which handles the State Sex Offenders Database, says when someone is arrested and uses an alias, that alias is kept on file forever.  The concern is that if authorities delete the alias, the criminal could go back to using it again.

Wheeler doesn't know where to turn.  For now, he just hopes he gets the job he recently applied for, as a maintenence worker at an assisted living facility. 

"But they require a background check," he said.  "Who knows if they'll believe me?" 

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