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Montreal man lived under stolen identity for more than a decade Add to ...

A man by the name of Donald Fiedler lived a quiet life in a Montreal suburb, complete with a cozy home, a live-in partner and a steady job.

The catch: the real Donald Fiedler lived about 3,600 kilometres away, in British Columbia, blissfully unaware for years while his identity was being stolen.

The charade was only exposed when the real Mr. Fiedler, 62, went to apply for his first-ever passport to attend his son's wedding in Hawaii.

His identity had been pilfered for more than a decade by Peter Michael Filitz, 59, who pleaded guilty Monday to taking the name and using it obtain passports in 1996, 2001 and 2006.

The Montrealer was sentenced to three months in jail and ordered to pay a $1,500 fine for making false statements on a passport form, for identity theft, and for possessing passports with false credentials.

But even as the man pleaded guilty, the Crown couldn't say with complete certainty that the man standing in the prisoner's box was indeed Mr. Filitz or why he took the alias.

Authorities suspect the man may be of German origin, and that he pilfered the identity of a Canadian so that he could elude immigration officials and remain in the country.

But nobody's sure. Prosecutors aren't even convinced Filitz is his actual name.

"When he was arrested he was asked to give his real name and he gave the name Peter Michael Filitz," said Crown prosecutor Alexandre Arel.

"What we can say is that, for now, we have no information yet if this is his real name."

He called the case a judicial rarity with no real precedent in Canada.

In cases of identity theft, generally, the goal is to commit fraud, Mr. Arel said.

But there's no indication Mr. Filitz tried to commit any financial crimes using Mr. Fiedler's name; lawyers on both sides believe he just wanted to avoid immigration authorities.

Mr. Filitz's lawyer believes his mysterious client is who he now says he is - probably.

Defence lawyer Vincent Rose says he believes Peter Michael Filitz exists, and says he has documentation to prove it. But given his client's bizarre past, he still won't identify the man of mystery with 100 per cent certainty.

Mr. Filitz has not told investigators much.

He did identify himself during a bail hearing following his arrest. He also said he was a German national who had lived in Canada for 27 years, after entering the country under his real name in 1983 via Mexico.

The RCMP tried, however, and couldn't find any information on Mr. Filitz. Fingerprint searches turned up nothing with Interpol and the FBI.

This weekend, authorities received documentation tracing the man back to Germany.

It will be up to Canada Border Services Agency to figure out who Mr. Filitz really is once and for all, and for the Immigration and Refugee Board to determine whether he belongs in Canada.

A warrant has been issued for Mr. Filitz's arrest once his jail sentence has been served in about seven weeks.

Mr. Filitz used Mr. Fiedler's moniker until his arrest earlier this year. The charade was exposed when the real Donald Fiedler applied for a passport and was told he already had one.

That triggered an RCMP investigation and Mr. Filitz was arrested in April at work, where he helped set up exhibitions.

A number of questions remained unanswered Monday - including how Mr. Filitz got a birth certificate and a driver's licence, but seemed to manage without a social insurance number or medicare card.

The ruse was so elaborate that his own girlfriend said she was unaware of it. She testified that she would be willing to bail Mr. Filitz out and marry him to keep him in Canada. Still, she compared the ordeal to a plot from a "Law and Order" episode.

It all unravelled last fall.

The real Mr. Fiedler, who has only ever lived in B.C., said Monday he encountered a susprising number of questions when he applied for a passport before a trip to Hawaii. He said he was asked a number of times if he had a previous passport, and only received his document after nine weeks.

He's still puzzled about how the identity theft occurred. Mr. Fiedler hasn't been in Montreal since 1975.

"I don't have a clue who (Mr. Filitz) is. I've never met him that I know of," Mr. Fiedler said in a phone interview.

He said he counts himself lucky that he hasn't been defrauded, and hopes the ordeal is over.

"I hope so," Mr. Fiedler said. "It hasn't hurt me - other than the passport taking nine weeks."

 

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