DES MOINES, Iowa -- Detectives with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation say that former U.S. senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards is the victim of identity theft. For years, said DCI Director Stephen E. Bogle, someone posing as Edwards has been appearing at campaign rallies, fund-raising events and Democratic Party functions throughout Iowa.
"We are not sure if this is a hoax, maybe just a prank being played on Mr. Edwards, or something more serious, such as someone without any qualifications whatsoever attempting to become president of the United States. We have to treat it seriously in either case," said Bogle.
Bogle said he knows that at least in some cases the individual was not John Edwards because the John Edwards campaign staff said at that time Edwards was not running for president, so there would be no reason for him to have been in Iowa.
One difficulty in the investigation is that no one in North Carolina or Washington, D.C., can provide a positive identification for Edwards. "Nobody we can find has seen him in North Carolina or Washington, D.C. since 1998. Also, we had one of our interns go through six years of C-Span tapes and she couldn't find a single clear image of Senator Edwards at any Senate function."
Although there are numerous video images of Edwards from the 2004 presidential contest, including political commercials and footage from campaign speeches, investigators are reluctant to depend upon them.
"At this point, we're not sure whether these are images of John Edwards or the impostor," said Chief Detective Robert Schramm. "The veteran personal injury attorney John Edwards was an articulate speaker and an extremely effective litigator, while the person we see in these videos simply parrots the same stump speech word-for-word every time. Personally, I don't think it's him. I think John Kerry got snookered."
New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly A. Ayotte said that she has been pursuing a similar case involving Edwards, without success, since 2001, based on the numerous appearances there of a John Edwards. "He had the hair, no doubt about that, but beyond that there is not enough evidence for us to be sure who it was," said Ayotte.
The person supposedly posing as Edwards bears such a strong resemblance to Edwards himself that it may be difficult to make an arrest without embarrassing Mr. Edwards. It was less publicized at the time than the incident involving Representative Cynthia McKinney but Senator Edwards missed half of his planned Senate votes in 2001 when he was held up at the security checkpoint by the regular duty officer who did not recognize him either time, says a well-placed source with congressional security.
Authorities don't want to risk making an arrest of the wrong person, so they are holding off until multiple DNA samples can be obtained and tested.
Inside sources with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation say they believe that the individual perpetrating this scam may be the same person who posed sporadically as the United States senator from North Carolina from 1998 until 2004.
Copyright 2006, Douglas Salguod