Deputies: Man lived for decades under identity stolen from dead baby

CCSO: Crash led to discovery of true ID of one-time escaped prisoner

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – A 64-year-old man involved in a minor car crash last August was arrested Wednesday after investigators learned that he had been living in Florida for decades under a stolen identity, according to the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

After the crash on County Road 218, a Florida Highway Patrol analyst discovered that the driver had obtained a Florida driver's license in 1975 in the name of Joel Hanes, a 2-week-old child who died in 1949.

Detectives said that a quick computer check uncovered two valid licenses that showed the same man, one with the name Joel Hanes and the other with the name Stephen York.

Once law enforcement officers identified the man's true identity as Stephen York, he was arrested on charges including fraudulent use of the identity of a deceased person, insurance fraud and possession of an illegal driver's license.

York was booked into the Clay County Jail, where's he's being held on $30,000 bond. He made his first appearance in court Thursday morning, and he's due in court again Feb. 22.

A woman at the first appearance said she was York's wife.

Before he obtained the Florida driver's license, investigators said, York escaped from a North Carolina prison, but returned to the state in 1980, turned himself in and finished his sentence.

It's unclear exactly when York returned to Florida after finishing his sentence, but Clay County deputies believe he may have moved to the Middleburg area in 2012. 

York has had 51 interactions as Joel Hanes with law enforcement in Clay and Duval counties over the years, including 24 traffic tickets in Clay County, 24 traffic tickets in Duval County, one boating citation and a 2006 charge of petty theft. He pleaded no contest and was placed on probation.

Court records show that York used the name Joel Hanes to register his truck, get car insurance, open a bank account and make insurance claims for many crashes over the years. 

Court records also show one divorce proceeding, but how that ended is unclear, because the records have been destroyed.

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