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PEP Dec 2006
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Public Employee Press

ID theft,
it could happen to you!


Carol Cordero, of Local 1549, went to apply for a marriage license and was shocked to find out that she already was married.

By ALFREDO ALVARADO

As many as 10 million Americans each year are victims of identity theft, according to a survey by the Federal Trade Commission.

One of those victims was Carol Cordero, a Clerical Associate with the Dept. of Sanitation and member of Local 1549. Like most victims, Cordero was caught completely by surprise.

The Bronx resident tried to apply for a marriage license and was refused. According to city records she was already married.

Unlike the millions of people who have their identities stolen and then have no access to affordable legal services to help them, Cordero was able to turn to her union for free legal assistance.

“I can’t say exactly how much she would have had to pay an attorney,” said Jocelyn Smith, a staff attorney at DC 37’s Municipal Employees Legal Services (MELS), and part of the seven-member team who worked on Cordero’s case for two years. “But it would have gotten very expensive.”

In addition to the many hours invested doing research, the MELS staff also filed two petitions to have the bogus marriage overturned. “The problem with this case was that it was very unusual,” said Smith. Their hard work finally paid off when Cordero was issued a marriage license last July. And as a result of her case, City Clerk Victor Robles is changing the rules so that when applicants’ names come up as having licenses already, they can appeal the rejection through the city’s administrative law judges for just $25 — and without having to file a lawsuit.


From left to right, the team that helped Carol Cordero with her case: Attorney Robert Garner, Senior Legal Assistant Gloria Bernstein, Team Clerical Coordinator Pura Mendez and Clerk Typist Andre Velez. Back row: Word Processor Gina Carr, Attorney Jocelyn Smith and Supervising Attorney Vincent Gagliardi.

As difficult as Cordero’s ordeal was, it could have been considerably worse. People whose identities have been stolen can spend thousands of dollars on legal fees and spend several years cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their reputation.

Their credit rating, job opportunities, loans for college tuition and a home mortgage can all be ruined while the thieves are out on a shopping spree buying plasma TVs or enjoying a Caribbean cruise with their friends.

The financial stress of a theft often causes marital problems among couples that many times can result in divorce.

“I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy,” said a relieved Cordero.

 

 

 

 

 

 
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