AD Main Menu

Impostor a plague on Anchorage man's life

Casey Grove
Mark Bottimore had his identity stolen and has been arrested several times for crimes committed by the identity thief. Photographed at his east Anchorage home on Wednesday, August 7, 2013.
Bob Hallinen
Mark Bottimore had his identity stolen and has been arrested several times for crimes committed by the identity thief. Photographed at his east Anchorage home on Wednesday, August 7, 2013.
Bob Hallinen

While the real Mark Bottimore was sick in bed, his impostor was stealing more than $4,000 worth of phones and tablets from the AT&T store in Midtown Anchorage.

Police caught the alleged smash-and-grab burglar, Milton LeBlanc, less than an hour later. LeBlanc had no identification card, told the cops his name was Bottimore, and gave them the personal details to prove it.

But this was just the most recent case in which LeBlanc, 36, posed as Bottimore, 43.

"I've been arrested twice because of this guy," the real Bottimore said. "He is not a mastermind. I don't know how the police keep falling for this."

The first time police arrested Bottimore for a warrant meant for LeBlanc was in 2007 after a simple traffic stop downtown. Bottimore bailed out and later went to the Anchorage Police Department, to tell them LeBlanc had stolen his identity. Police arrested Bottimore again.

Because neither Bottimore nor the police ever fully dealt with his identity crisis, Bottimore's name was still linked to LeBlanc's crimes six years later.

Anchorage police spokeswoman Jennifer Castro said it was true that LeBlanc's false statements had caused police to arrest Bottimore twice and, years later, briefly name him as the AT&T burglar. But Bottimore failed to explain to law enforcement after the 2007 arrests that he was not the man committing crimes in his name, Castro said.

Those were not "wrongful" arrests, Castro said.

"(The) term 'wrongfully arrested' is incorrect because Bottimore was technically, at the time, correctly arrested based on the information and processes we have in place for making arrests," Castro wrote in an e-mail.

Bottimore says he tried to tell the police, but he admits he never fully took care of clearing his name. His distrust from the second arrest stopped him from approaching police again, Bottimore said.

And is it crazy, Bottimore wondered, to think that trained police officers should be able figure out that LeBlanc -- a taller man with different hair and eye color and only nine fingers -- was not him?

STOLEN ID

It started when Bottimore's brother met LeBlanc in jail. LeBlanc has spent several stints there, court records show. Court documents on LeBlanc's arrests and probation violations, including failed urine tests, point to a history of methamphetamine and opiate abuse.

LeBlanc was released in 2005 and stayed with Bottimore's mother while Bottimore was living there. They were not friends, and Bottimore says he did not know about all of LeBlanc's problems at first.

LeBlanc soon ended up back in jail. When he got out, he returned to the house to look for left-behind personal belongings, said Bottimore, who suspects that is when LeBlanc stole his wallet and other information.

In September of 2006, an officer stopped LeBlanc at Third Avenue and Unga Street for a traffic violation, according to a charging document. The officer arrested LeBlanc for drug possession and not having insurance, said Castro, the police spokeswoman. LeBlanc gave the officer Bottimore's expired driver's license, Castro said.

LeBlanc posted bail, failed to show up for court and a judge issued a warrant for Bottimore's arrest.

That's when Bottimore wrote the letter trying to explain that his information had been stolen and misused. It was addressed to the Anchorage Police Department and the Alaska Court System.

"I can't have this hanging over me. Please correct your records," Bottimore wrote.

Castro said the process a person must go through to clear his or her name in such a case is sometimes a long one. There is no record that Bottimore tried to contact police, she said. To create a permanent record that someone's identity has been stolen, they must contact federal authorities, a state criminal database manager said.

In February 2007, a police officer pulled Bottimore over for making an illegal turn downtown. Then the officer said he had to arrest Bottimore on a warrant.

"Per APD procedures, Bottimore was taken into custody and transported to the Anchorage Jail," Castro wrote by email. "Our obligation is to arrest the person who has a warrant issued and are often told by the subjects that we have 'the wrong person.'"

In this case, the subject -- Bottimore -- was in the right. Bottimore paid his bail within a few hours and was released, he said. A judge told him later he needed to fill out a packet of information to give to police, who would check the details and make note of the identity theft issue for future reference, Bottimore said.

Meantime, LeBlanc continued to get in trouble.

Police records show LeBlanc was driving and involved in a collision later that February. Under Bottimore's name, he was cited and released for not having insurance. When he failed to show up for court, a judge issued another arrest warrant for Bottimore on March 27, 2007.

Bottimore went to the police department to try and set the record straight three days later. His niece and his son were with him, he said.

"So I'm waiting for someone to talk to when three big officers come out and say, 'You're under arrest,'" Bottimore said.

Bottimore asked them to get the first officer who had arrested him. Surely that cop would know they had the wrong guy, Bottimore thought. He was sitting in the back of a police car when that first officer got in the front.

"He just started going off on me like I was Milton. He finally had him, and I was him, and he was looking me right in the eyeballs, calling me everything," Bottimore said. "He was screaming so hard he was spitting in my face. 'Oh, I've got you now you lowlife piece of,' you know."

Castro said Bottimore never filed a formal complaint over that incident.

"I didn't look anything like Milton and our fingerprints don't match," Bottimore said.

Not only do their fingerprints not match, but LeBlanc has one less fingerprint. That's because LeBlanc lost half a finger in an accident, Bottimore said. On a good day, Bottimore is 150 pounds and stands 6 feet, as his driver's license says. Court records put LeBlanc at 6 feet, 2 inches tall and 220 pounds. Bottimore's eyes are blue. LeBlanc's are brown.

Officers rely on a database called the Alaska Public Safety Information Network, APSIN for short, when making arrests, Castro said.

"Basic physical description is provided in our APSIN check, but what was really significant in this situation is the ability of LeBlanc to provide sensitive data about Bottimore, such as his Social Security number, previous addresses and criminal history of Bottimore, which is all shown in APSIN."

So Bottimore bailed himself out again. In court, the charges against him were dropped, as before.

According to a police report, Castro said, city prosecutors made police aware of Bottimore's stolen identity in June 2007. Police arrested LeBlanc that month for making false reports, she said.

"He told officers he knew Bottimore's identity by memory, as they had lived together in the past, and that him and Bottimore had an arrangement where LeBlanc could use Bottimore's identity to delay arrest for a warrant he had," Castro said in an email.

Bottimore says they never had such an arrangement.

NEW CHARGES

Court records show LeBlanc continued to rack up charges in the following years, including promoting contraband in prison and, once he was out, shoplifting.

In May 2013, LeBlanc was charged with stealing a man's Toyota Tundra pickup. According to the charges, LeBlanc took the man's wallet, keys and clothes. Police found the pickup ditched at Mirror Lake, off the Glenn Highway.

Inside were two business cards for a probation officer, and when police asked the probation officer about dates and times written on the cards, she said those were appointments she had with LeBlanc. Surveillance video also showed a man matching LeBlanc's description entering the locker room and walking out with the victim's duffle bag, the charges say.

A judge issued another warrant for LeBlanc's arrest, this time in his name.

Police did not see him again until the Aug. 2 break-in at AT&T, The building owner gave police a surveillance video, Castro said.

"At the scene, cell phone and tablet displays and brackets and mounts were scattered in disarray," the charges say.

On a hunch, an officer drove to a nearby hotel and saw the man seen in the surveillance video riding in a car, the police spokeswoman said.

"When police stopped the car, LeBlanc told police his name was Mark Bottimore and gave a date of birth and Social Security number which matched with APSIN under than name," the charges say.

Castro told local reporters Bottimore was the suspect. Jennifer Veltri, the same niece with him during his previous arrest, read the news story online.

"As soon as I saw his name, I was like, 'Nope, this isn't real,' and called my uncle immediately," Veltri said. "Mark, he's just a skinny old guy who doesn't like to talk to anybody. He's very, very antisocial. So this whole thing was really hard on him."

Bottimore called police and said the man they had jailed was not him.

Castro confirmed in a subsequent statement to news media that Bottimore was not the burglar and named LeBlanc as the true suspect the next day.

The problem, Castro said, might be with the state APSIN system. A notification that said Bottimore's identity had been stolen could have expired, Castro said.

Kathy Monfreda, chief of the state's Criminal Records and Identification Bureau, said such notices routinely expire after six months, though a police department can extend the date.

The Anchorage Police Department has since changed the expiration date of the identity theft indicator in Bottimore's APSIN profile to 2050, Castro said.

For Bottimore, it was too little, too late. His name had been broadcast and published to the world as a criminal.

"It's been a nightmare," Bottimore said.

In an e-mail Friday, Police Chief Mark Mew said he was still looking into the department's handling of Bottimore.

"I must reiterate than we have no record that Mr. Bottimore ever filed an identity theft report with us, complained to us regarding our handling of his identity concerns, or got himself on the federal identity theft data base, all of which are things one in his apparent situation should do," Mew wrote.

Bottimore says he does not trust law enforcement to treat him fairly.

"After that treatment, the second time, there was no way I wanted to go back to them," Bottimiore said. "Nobody ever apologized, that's the thing that always got me."

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.

 


By CASEY GROVE
casey.grove@adn.com