Glenwood man discovers he has an impersonator
Bob Gaines is having some real identity issues lately.On April 1, Gaines, of Glenwood Springs, thought he was a victim of a practical joke. A friend called to say he read a newspaper article about a New Mexico man who had left a $1.7 million house as a tip for a waitress – in Gaines’ name.But this was no joke.According to an April 1 story in The New Mexican, a man claiming he was a musician named Robert Gaines – whose brother, Steve, and sister, Cassie, were members of Southern-rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd and were killed in a plane crash – signed a deed over for the house at a Santa Fe restaurant. The man said the house was part of a $12 million compound he was purchasing. He also said he played guitar and keyboards for Lynyrd Skynyrd, a band recently inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.The catch: The real brother of Steve and Cassie Gaines lives in Glenwood Springs. He never played guitar or keyboards for the band. And he has no intentions of buying anyone a $1.7 million home, not even himself.”I’ve lived here in Glenwood Springs for 18 years. I moved here from Florida,” said Gaines, who runs a drywall company in Glenwood. “My friend Rich Broyles called from Florida and said he read about a man saying he was Robert Gaines, brother of Steve and Cassie Gaines from Lynyrd Skynyrd who died in a plane crash. It was on April Fool’s Day, so I thought it was a joke. Then I got a call from a reporter at the paper.”
The real Gaines, who prefers “Bob” instead of Robert, is in fact the brother of Steve and Cassie. His only siblings died in the 1977 private plane crash that also killed the band’s manager, Dean Kilpatrick, and lead singer, Ronnie Van Zant.”I kind of just fell into this on April Fool’s Day. I’ve never played guitar in my life, or keyboards,” he said. “I’m an old drummer.”In the article, the man claiming to be Robert Gaines was photographed posing behind a motorcycle. He was also quoted as saying he planned to buy a Sante Fe bar and tour the U.S. playing music. His actions aren’t illegal, said Santa Fe’s deputy police chief, because the man hasn’t actually stolen anything or defrauded anyone.”I’ve never even owned a motorcycle,” said Gaines, who stopped in the PI Wednesday to provide a copy of his Colorado driver’s license and an old photo of Steve and Cassie, both smiling brightly, before their deaths. “He’s using the alias of my name. It’s kind of strange that you should identify yourself like this.”Americans, especially Coloradans, might have to get used to proving themselves. Identity theft numbers continue to rise, especially with the Internet’s influence on consumer spending.”One of the fastest growing crimes in America continues to destroy peoples’ lives,” said Rep. Jim Riesberg, D-Greeley, in a press statement detailing two house bills moving though the Colorado state legislature. “Colorado ranks fifth in the nation for identity theft. If this legislation becomes law, we will enable Colorado victims to finally fight back and hold criminals accountable.”
One bill would make identity theft a felony. The other would create an identity theft and financial fraud unit at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for enforcement across jurisdictional boundaries.”Your whole life can be stolen from you, and you have to prove who you are,” said Mickie Fisher, president of Grand Junction-based Colorado Credit Services, which is opening a Castle Creek office to help people in the area with identity theft. “This is just an emotional issue for people.”Although Gaines is unaware of any illegal activity associated with his credit, he filed a report with the Glenwood Springs Police Department last week. On Tuesday, he spoke with a police detective from Phoenix who said his impersonator has been negotiating real estate and auto purchases in Arizona. The transactions have not been completed.”Now he’s up in Phoenix doing the same thing,” Gaines said. “The detective said to be expecting a phone call from the FBI. And he told me to check with my credit card companies and idtheft.com.”Shana Musich, a sales manager with Colorado Credit Services, said Gaines might want to take precautionary measures a step further.”Contacting the police is not enough. That isn’t going to protect him enough – I think that’s a huge misconception,” she said. “The biggest thing they tell you to do is contact the Social Security Office. If your identity is stolen it can be a huge, thorough process.”
In Gaines’ case, no crime has been committed – but a man is still out there impersonating him.”He’s famous by association,” Musich said. “This man may just need attention, and he might not take it any further. But you’ve got to wonder if he ever met him before, or where he got his name from.”Wendy Brown, of the Free New Mexican, contributed to this story.Protect yourselfWith identity theft on the rise, many credit services are offering confidential assistance in helping people freeze their assets, remove fraudulent information from their credit reports and negotiate with creditors. Colorado Credit Services, based in Grand Junction, is opening a new location at 45705 Highway 6 in the Canyon Creek area to serve the valley. For more information, call (888) 288-5809 or visit unitedcreditservices.biz.
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