Trying Not to Live Up to His Reputation : Impersonator Uses Innocent Man’s ID as He Gets Into Scrapes

Associated Press

William Finch has been hauled in twice as a deserter--and he is not even in the Navy--because someone apparently used his name and Social Security number to enlist, then ran off from the ship Roosevelt.

“We’re very sensitive to this man’s problem, and we don’t want it to happen it again,” Lt. Nancy Slivka, a Navy spokeswoman, said after the 22-year-old bus driver was released from Great Lakes Naval Training Center in North Chicago.

Finch’s picture will be posted prominently in naval offices, she said, and he will be given another document saying he is not the man the Navy is seeking.

Finch was given such a document after his first arrest in June, 1987, she said. But he could not produce it when state police arrested him last week at Starved Rock State Park, where he was fishing, when a routine license plate check revealed an outstanding warrant in his name.


“I was thrown in the La Salle County Jail overnight and then spent 3 1/2 days in the brig at Great Lakes Naval Training Center,” Finch said.

No Bars in Unit

Slivka disputed Finch’s reference to the brig, saying he was held in a unit without bars.

But she said Great Lakes personnel undoubtedly treated him as a deserter.


“When we go out and pick up a deserter, he’s not necessarily going to come along willingly,” she said.

“Experience has told these people they may hear a number of different stories. Based on the information they had in front of them . . . they processsed him as if he were a deserter.”

Finch said his hair was cut short and he was forced to march until a federal judge issued an order to free him.

The Navy first got its signals crossed with Finch on June 3, 1987, when Chicago police stopped him for a burned-out taillight. The desertion warrant turned up during a routine license-plate check that time also.

After spending a night in jail, Finch was taken to Great Lakes for questioning and a comparison of descriptions.

“He was 5 foot 4 inches; I am 5 foot 7 inches. He weighed 140 pounds; I weigh 220. He didn’t have any scars; I have a large scar from a kidney operation. He was left-handed; I am right-handed.”

Finch was released immediately that time.

He had more trouble this time because the statistics on the deserter had to be mailed from Washington, Slivka said.


“The Navy sent the records by mail on Monday,” Assistant U.S. Atty. Thomas Walsh said. “It must have been by route of a slow boat to China. The records still aren’t here.”

Daniel Crowe, Finch’s attorney, said: “If the judge hadn’t agreed to hear the case, Finch would have been in the brig until next week.”

Telephone calls to Crowe’s office for details on the court action were not returned. Finch was not home, his mother said.

‘Rare and Unusual’

Slivka called Finch’s “a very rare and unusual case,” although in a similar one in February, 1987, a 27-year-old grocery clerk was arrested for desertion by the Navy.

Finch said he bears no ill will toward the Navy but is worried about missing four days of his job.

And there is one more problem.

Finch recently received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service. It appears that the other Finch owes Uncle Sam $900 in back taxes.


“He is still out there and still using my identity,” Finch said. “Who knows what other stuff he has been pulling?”