An illegal immigrant accused of assuming the persona of a Texas teacher pleaded guilty Monday in a case that put a face on the growing crime of "total identity theft" in the United States.
Benita Cardona-Gonzalez, a Mexican national living in Topeka, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of possessing fraudulent identification documents in a deal with prosecutors that calls for an 18-month prison term.
The 32-year-old was accused of completely assuming the persona of Houston elementary school teacher Candida Gutierrez, who first went public in a story by The Associated Press. Gutierrez recounted how the thief not only opened bank and credit accounts, but assumed her entire persona — using it to get a job, a driver's license, a mortgage, food stamps and even medical care for the birth of two children. All the while, the crook claimed the real Gutierrez was the one who had stolen her identity.