The recent arrest of Ana Maria Anastacio, 24, has brought closure for one Franklin County woman. Anastacio was recently arrested in Champaign, Illinois on federal charges linking her to the identity theft of 34-year-old Tamara Greenhill. FBI agents say Anastacio was in the country illegally.
Anastacio is accused of spending the past eight years living Greenhill’s life, stealing her identification, working under the Greenhill name and even owning a home. This all stemmed from a purse snatching at Florence’s Walmart on Nov. 29, 2002. Tamara talked exclusively to WHNT News 19 about her eight-year nightmare and the hurdles she faced trying to prove who she was.
A short time after Tamara’s purse was stolen, Greenhill says she was contacted by a friend from Kelly Services in Florence stating that someone was employed with them under Tamara’s name and using her Social Security Number. Tamara says she filed several police reports in several counties. “I filed a complaint with ICE, I filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, the BBB and I filed a complaint with every PD there is within a 100-mile radius,” said Greenhill.
And then in 2004, Greenhill learned several local businesses had hired the woman who had stolen her life. She says she continuously contacted these places to beg them to stop hiring her, though she says most did not take heed.
After some time passed, Greenhill says she started doing her own homework. “Months passed and months passed, said Greenhill, and then I started getting more nervous and I started finding her. She was leaving a paper trail of me and I was able to find her with my computer, with her actual addresses and take it to the police and nothing was being done.”
And then another blow came in 2005. Tamara and Jeff Greenhill were contacted by the IRS concerning a discrepancy in their reported tax income. Greenhill says that year, they took her refund and that tax trend continued year after year. Worse, the Greenhills had a rough financial year in 2007 and applied for unemployment benefits. They were denied, because at the time, another Tamara Greenhill was in the United States working full time.
Finally in 2010, Greenhill says she caught a break after FBI Agent Pat Stokes agreed to take on her case. That’s when she found out Anastacio owned a home in her name. Agent Stokes was able to do what local law enforcement could not. He found Anastacio and agents arrested her in June.
Stokes says the FBI has the resources to go after cases like this. “In a lot of these cases, what we are seeing are individuals who are not citizens of the U.S. They have come in and stolen an American citizen's identification and they are working under the identification, living under that identification and we don't know who these people are,” said Stokes. According to the FBI, in 2010, there were 10 million victims of identity theft. That cost the U.S. an excess of $60 billion.
As for the real Tamara Greenhill, she’s trying to put this nightmare behind her. But not before she spreads awareness to others about her struggle. She also hopes to bring to light some of the loopholes in our system of hiring people. Recently she met with State Sen. Roger Bedford, (D)-Russellville, who is drafting a bill that cracks down on employment agencies and businesses that hire illegal immigrants.
“This really happens to people," said Greenhill. "This is the fastest growing crime and nobody is talking about it.”
Anastacio faced arraignment this Thursday in Birmingham. She’s charged with two counts of aggravated identity theft and two counts of providing false statements to federal authorities.