The nightmare is nearing an end for Santa Clara county resident Ronnie Bogle, after authorities arrested his long lost brother, Gary Wayne Bogle, and charged him with 10 felony counts of false impersonation. Ronnie says for the past five years, he has been plagued with bills for thousands of dollars in medical treatments he never received. Bogle believed, and authorities agree, he was the victim of medical identity theft, committed by his own brother.
NBC Bay Area cameras were in the courthouse when Ronnie faced his older brother Gary in person for the first time in 20 years.
"It was just an enormous amount of relief that he's somewhere he can't do this to me anymore," Bogle said.
Santa Clara County prosecutors charged Gary Bogle with 10 felony counts of false impersonation for racking up medical bills and criminal arrests using Ronnie's name, social security number and health insurance information. If convicted, he faces up to 9 years in prison. Gary Bogle declined our multiple interview requests.
"Every time I would pull my credit history up there would be more and more and more things," Bogle said. "There are unpaid bills in the thousands of dollars."
NBC Bay Area first brought you Ronnie's story in March. (insert link to first story) He revealed a laundry list of hospital bills from Florida and Tennessee to Colorado and Washington. Ronnie says he's never even visited those states. But he suspected he knew who did. Ronnie said he believed his brother, a traveling carnival worker, was using his identity. The Investigative Unit tracked down Gary Bogle in Washington. We obtained video of Gary under arrest in December 2014 for being drunk in public. The police report shows that Gary gave the Renton police department Ronnie's name and vital information.
Our March investigative report spurred an interstate search for Gary, led by Mountain View detective Hung Le Dang and Santa Clara county deputy district attorney Tom Flattery. Eight months later, authorities located, arrested, and extradited Gary Bogle to Santa Clara county.
"I think a lot of credit goes to Ronnie," Flattery said. "This is a very very serious crime." Flattery advises people to learn from Ronnie's experience, and take a proactive stance to protect themselves from becoming a victim of medical identity theft.
"We used to tell people it was a smart idea to check your credit report every year just to make sure there wasn't something going on that you didn't know about. Now it's a good idea to look at your medical records as well," Flattery said.
Ann Patterson leads the Medical ID Fraud Alliance. She says medical identity theft can have life or death consequences if a thief's medical information is mixed up with yours. For example, your record may reflect the wrong blood type or not list allergies to medications you may have, and if you're in an emergency and unable to communicate, that mis-information could lead to harm.
"When you go to get medical goods or services, you can be misdiagnosed or mistreated," Patterson said. A 2015 study by the group found one in four people have their medical identity stolen by a friend or relative, and victims paid an average of $13,500 to resolve the crime, totaling $20 billion in 2014. The study also found medical ID theft is a quickly growing crime that affected 2.3 million Americans in 2014, up 21.7 percent from 2013.
Meanwhile, Ronnie says he has been fighting the bills, and slowly getting them removed from his name. He advises anyone who has been de-frauded to be persistent, and follow up with law enforcement.