An investigation into a fraudulent check led Albuquerque police to arrest the victim of identity theft, even though the perpetrator who used his ID to cash the check looked dramatically different, according to a lawsuit filed this month.
John Ganley is a 40-year-old dispatcher for the Kirtland Air Force Base Fire Department. He’s a military veteran with security clearance and no criminal record, according to the civil suit. At some point in the fall of 2015, his identity was stolen.
The lawsuit filed in state District Court alleges that in September 2015 a person who is “much younger and bears no resemblance” to Ganley provided Ganley’s driver’s license to the teller when he cashed a fraudulent check. That interaction was recorded on surveillance footage, which contains “clear views” of him, according to the suit.
Police investigated the check, using the driver’s license number to track down a photo of Ganley. Although the person shown in the surveillance footage was “younger, had very different facial features and was of smaller build” than Ganley, police swore out an arrest warrant and criminal complaint against Ganley in March 2016, according to the lawsuit.
Both the city and the officer who investigated the case are named as defendants. A city spokeswoman said the legal department had not been served but would evaluate the case to “decide on appropriate next steps.”
In May, Ganley was stopped by officers in Las Vegas, N.M., and learned of the fraud and forgery warrant. He was taken into custody and booked into the San Miguel County Detention Center.
Ganley bonded out but was told he would have to turn himself in when he returned to Bernalillo County. Days later, he contacted law enforcement in Albuquerque and was booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center.
“It was a pretty traumatic experience for him, someone who’s never been involved in our criminal justice system before,” said Nicole Moss, Ganley’s attorney.
Ganley’s case was dismissed by prosecutors Oct. 20. Further investigation by a detective, according to court documents, found that Ganley was a “victim of identity theft and was not the perpetrator” of the crimes with which he was charged.
Despite the dismissal, Ganley argues that since the ordeal he has continued to suffer from emotional distress, anxiety and depression. He has Crohn’s disease, which worsens under extreme stress, Moss said.
The lawsuit alleges that Ganley was deprived of his constitutional rights and that the city and its officer failed to investigate properly before issuing an arrest warrant. It also alleges the city was negligent in its hiring, training and supervision of the officer.
Ganley is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.