Bykofsky: Gross case of stolen and mistaken identity

Shawn Gill at the wheel of his 2014 Toyota Tacoma that he drove for Lyft and Uber until his license was suspended as a result of identity theft.

WHEN SHAWN GILL got a call at his Warminster home from a doctor at Einstein Medical Center asking how he was feeling, he was puzzled.

Why do you want to know? he asked.

"Because we treated you after your accident last night," the doctor said.

"I wasn't in no accident last night," said Gill, who had been asleep in his bed.

He quickly figured out that some stranger had used his name.

That identity theft launched Gill into a Kafkaesque maze of mirrors, trap doors, bureaucracy and police errors.

His nightmare, appropriately, began in the middle of the night - at 2:25 a.m. May 20 - with a collision at Broad and Rockland streets in Logan, 13 miles from his home. A 2004 Chevrolet Suburban had rear-ended a 2014 Buick Verano, causing damage to the Buick and injury to its driver. The Suburban took off, but was quickly stopped.

Police questioned the Suburban's driver, whose speech was slurred and whose face was flushed, according to a police report. He refused to take a Breathalyzer and was hostile with officers who took him to Einstein, where he refused a blood test.

When arrested on suspicion of DUI, he gave his name as Shawn Gill, along with Gill's address and date of birth.

Hours later, after fingerprinting, police learned that the actual name of the driver was David Joseph Singer. He was in the system because of previous convictions for theft, burglary, aggravated assault and possession of instruments of crime.

The Suburban he was driving is registered to Sarah Singer, not to Gill.

Gill, 46, owns a 2014 Toyota Tacoma that he drives for Lyft and Uber. He is otherwise a stay-at-home dad who cares for his autistic son.

After the call from Einstein, Gill did the right thing and filed identity-theft reports with the 35th District, where the crash happened and where the paperwork originated. He also reported the situation to PennDot.

That should cover it, he thought.

He thought wrong.

On June 6, he got a notice from PennDot saying his license would be suspended for a year starting July 8, the result of his refusal to take a Breathalyzer test. But that was not him.

Lyft and Uber dropped him as a driver, cutting off his part-time income.

"Every time I call PennDot, I get put on hold for a half-hour, and no one tells me the right thing to do. I did everything I was told to get this fixed," a frustrated Gill told me, laying a sheath of papers on his kitchen table.

It didn't get fixed.

Gill told me he contacted PennDot again, filed an appeal and had a hearing Sept. 14.

He showed up without a lawyer because he didn't think he needed one. He knew the wrong police paperwork had been corrected to Singer's name. "It's traffic court, I thought," said Gill, who has no criminal record.

Things went sideways because the corrected police paperwork had not reached Harrisburg. Worse, two cops - one from the Accident Investigation District and the arresting officer - testified that Gill had been behind the wheel. Which is impossible.

Here's the thing: On the original paperwork, the belligerent driver was described as 5-7 and 320 pounds. Not mentioned in the report was a very large tattoo covering his neck. Gill is 190 pounds and not inked.

Because we know that Gill wasn't the driver, it's hard to understand the gross misidentification. First, stolen identity. Now, mistaken identity.

A befuddled Gill appealed to the judge, who gave him 30 days to present new evidence before her final verdict.

That's when a friend of Gill's asked me to take a look.

I did - and found puzzling questions. How did the 43-year-old Singer get Gill's ID information?

"I don't know who this guy is," Gill told me. "I have no idea." Singer's attorney, Daniel Conner, declined to make him available for an interview, but court records show he has used a dozen aliases, including Shawn Gill.

Why was the wrong information about the refusal to take a Breathalyzer not changed after the cops had correctly identified Singer?

How could two cops be off by 130 pounds and a huge neck tattoo when identifying Gill in court as the driver?

Most important, how can the basket of snakes be untangled?

Gill and his lawyer - he has one now - can assemble the various documents and bring them to the judge, but there is a shortcut.

PennDot community relations coordinator Alexis Campbell told me that if the officer who made the report writes a letter on police stationery saying the identification of Gill was erroneous, PennDot will wipe Gill's record clean.

Police public affairs was useful in helping me unpack this mess, but will not ask the cop to write the letter unless Gill talks to the police first, which his lawyer has advised him not to do.

I don't know what public affairs thinks Gill can tell them. He is the innocent victim. The cops know it and should not be attaching conditions to a letter that would quickly restore Gill's driver's license.

Commissioner Richard Ross can make this happen in a second. He should, because Gill has been jerked around enough.

stubyko@phillynews.com

215-854-5977 @StuBykofsky

Blog: ph.ly/Byko

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