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Man accused of stealing identity of dead infant pleads not guilty

Stephen York faces six felony counts

Stephen York is being held in the Clay County Jail on $30,000 bond.
Stephen York is being held in the Clay County Jail on $30,000 bond.

CLAY COUNTY, Fla – A 64-year-old man who was arrested for living in Florida for decades under a stolen identity pleaded not guilty Wednesday to six felony charges in Clay County Court.

Stephen York's request for his $30,000 bond to be reduced was denied. He will next appear in court on March 13.

After a crash on County Road 218 last August, a Florida Highway Patrol analyst discovered that the driver, York, 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 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 determined the man's true identity was 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 he is being held on $30,000 bond. He made his first appearance in court Thursday morning before his arraignment Wednesday.

A woman at York's first appearance said she is 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 that he might 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.