Man convicted for using dead brother’s identity for more than 60 years

In a surprising turn of events, Napoleon Gonzalez, an 86-year-old man from Etna, Maine, was found guilty of multiple counts of fraud, including identity theft, passport fraud, Social Security fraud, and mail fraud. The verdict was delivered last Friday after a two-day trial at the U.S. District Court in Bangor, with Judge John A. Woodcock, Jr. presiding.

Gonzalez had been impersonating his deceased brother, Guillermo Gonzalez, since the mid-1960s. Guillermo had died in infancy in 1939. Using his brother’s identity, Napoleon managed to secure a second passport and collect Social Security benefits under both names. He also obtained several state identification cards under the stolen identity.

The Social Security Administration had previously investigated Gonzalez’s benefits in 2010 for potential fraud, but his benefits were upheld. However, a new investigation was initiated in 2020 when facial recognition software, used by the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles, detected Gonzalez’s face on two state identification cards.

Emily Cook, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office, explained that the facial recognition technology is used to prevent individuals from obtaining multiple credentials or credentials under another person’s name. When fraudulent activities are detected, they are investigated and referred for administrative or criminal proceedings, as was the case with Gonzalez.

Court documents reveal that Gonzalez claimed to have assumed his deceased brother’s identity under the direction of the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations during an undercover operation in the 1960s. He later admitted to faking his own death and continuing to use his brother’s identity.

Gonzalez’s attorney, Harris Mattson, announced plans to appeal the conviction and will attempt to keep his client out of prison until the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals makes a decision. Mattson expressed doubts about the government’s ability to prove all the elements of the multiple charges against his client and voiced concern about the potential imposition of a lengthy prison sentence given his client’s advanced age. Gonzalez, who remains free, awaits a sentencing date and could face up to 20 years in prison, with mail fraud carrying the heaviest potential penalty.