How a Car Crash Led to the Arrest of a Man Allegedly Using a False Identity He Stole After Prison Escape
Police believe that Stephen York has lived under a fraudulent name for four decades
When Florida Highway Patrol officers responded to a minor two-car fender bender in August, they went through the normal routine of documenting the accident and checking drivers licenses.
That’s when, police say, they found a discrepancy.
One of the drivers allegedly handed them a Florida driver’s license with the name Joel Dean Hanes, with a birth date of Jan. 15, 1949. When police ran the social security number, they found that the real Joel Dean Hanes had died as an infant on Feb. 1, 1949.
On Wednesday, police arrested the driver, identified as 64-year-old Stephen York, and charged him with six charges relating to fraud and identity theft.
In their application for an arrest warrant, which was obtained by PEOPLE, police say the fraudulent driver’s license was issued more than 40 years ago, during the time that York was a fugitive from justice.
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According to online records, York had been serving time for armed robbery in North Carolina when he escaped in early 1975. He was recaptured in 1980 and served three more years in prison.
But during the years that York was on the run, police believe that he stole the identity of Joel Dean Hanes. According to the arrest warrant application, York used Hanes’ identify for more than four decades. He allegedly used the name to register his vehicles, purchase insurance and even file claims for automobile crashes.
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This accident wasn’t York’s first encounter with police. PEOPLE searched the Florida records of “Joel Dean Hanes.” Since 1986, he has been ticketed at least 46 times for minor traffic violations. It doesn’t appear that any of these police encounters raised suspicion. The arrest warrant application notes that York had “dozens” of interactions with police under the assumed name.
After police issued an arrest warrant, York turned himself in on Wednesday. Jail records show he’s being held on $30,000 bail. It is unclear whether he has obtained an attorney.