Identity Theft: Tom and John

Identity Theft: Tom and John

"I have no relationship with my younger brother, Tom, because he stole my identity," says John. The siblings haven't seen or spoken to each other in almost five years.

"The first time that I stole my brother's identity, I was driving, and I had a girl in the car with me. The police asked me for some I.D. I gave them my brother's name. I got a ticket, signed it, and we left. I did not tell my brother because I was in fear of my life," Tom recalls.

"Tom gave my name to the officer because he had warrants, and he didn't want to go to jail," John adds. "I found out that Tom stole my identity because my ex-wife worked for the DMV and found out that I had a court appearance for a ticket. I called Tom and asked him if he knew anything about it. I talked to him for a while, and he finally came clean. I told him, ‘You're going to court with me, and we're going to get this straightened out.' When they got close to calling my name to go up, he left. I felt extremely betrayed, so I told the judge, ‘The guy who just walked out of here is my brother. He's the one who did it.'"

Tom disputes this incident. "I was never in that courtroom with him, and I did not run away from a judge. Never! My brother lied on that one," he says.

"Tom's lying to himself. He knows he got up and left. I think Tom's a coward," John says.

Tom promised John that he wouldn't betray him again but was soon back to his old tricks. "The second time that I used my brother's identity, a policeman saw that I was not wearing my seatbelt," he says.

"He told me that he had a minor ticket that he needed me to get signed off, and I told him, ‘Why don't you do it yourself?'" John recalls. "He finally told me he couldn't do it because it was in my name. I was stunned when I found out. I got extremely angry at Tom, started yelling in the phone, telling him he needed to get up there to the courthouse and take care of that **** ticket himself. He needed to take responsibility and get it off my record."

As Tom recalls how John handled the situation, he grows indignant. "He went straight to the police. They came to my door and arrested me for a felony," he says. "I do believe that he should have walked up to my doorstep and smacked me upside the head like a big brother would do instead of calling the police on me."

Their sister, Joanne, shares her thoughts. "Tom has fallen to an all-time low by committing a crime against my brother," she says. "Tom has neither acknowledged nor apologized for what he did," she says.

"What I really want for Tom now is to accept responsibility for everything he's ever done, and take responsibility for his life," John says.

Dr. Phil addresses Tom. "What's going on here?" he asks. "You admit that you've stolen your brother's I.D."

"Yes, I did," Tom replies.

"And you criticize him for turning you into the police?" Dr. Phil asks, incredulous.

"At the time, I would have rather have a busted nose than go to jail."

"You would have had more than a busted nose, Buddy," John chimes in angrily. "What I wanted to do to you, I could not do because I would have gone way too far."

"You actually made a club. You were going to go club him," Dr. Phil observes.
"Absolutely," John says. He faces his sibling. "I was going to beat your a**."

 

"What did you say to yourself at the time that you stole [John's] identity?" Dr. Phil asks Tom.

"I did go up to the courthouse, and I paid the fine for the seatbelt ticket," Tom says. "It's not like I was running away from the courts or anything."

"You ran out of the courthouse on the one situation, true?" Dr. Phil asks.

John gazes as his brother, daring him to object. "You went into that courthouse on the first offense. You sat down with me on that bench. Before they got to my name, you left."

"Never," Tom says.

"You walked out," John reiterates.

 

The brothers bicker about the particulars of the incident.

Dr. Phil tries to understand Tom's logic. "What do you say to yourself when the police come for you and you give your brother's name? What do you say to yourself that makes it OK to give your brother's name?" he asks.

 

"There is nothing that justifies what I did," Tom replies solemnly.

 

"We're in agreement on that," Dr. Phil says. He repeats his question.

 

"I would have given anybody's name at that time," Tom says. "It was just a seatbelt ticket, but the problem was, I used his name because I could not use my own because there was a warrant for my arrest."

 

"You should have just used your name and dealt with it, then you wouldn't be a felon," Tom says. "I don't mean just pay the fine and leave it on me. You take responsibility, and you deal with it, and you wouldn't be a felon."

 

"That's not how I got to be a felon," Tom says.

 

"You got to be a felon by not taking responsibility and having me have to take care of it for you," John says heatedly. Referencing his decision to turn his brother over to the authorities, he says, "I did exactly what I had to do, and I would do it again."

Joanne says her brother has deeper issues than identity theft. "Tom has been involved with alcohol for a long time, and it's just destroyed him," she says, her voice breaking.

"What do you want to see happen between this family?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Ultimately, I would really like to see Tom somehow genuinely apologize and make everything as clean as he possibly could, and stop drinking," she replies. "He wants to stop drinking, but he can't. He needs something more than just willpower."

Dr. Phil turns to John. "Do you think he's acknowledging this and taking accountability for it, even as he sits here?" he asks.

"I believe he is," John replies. He looks his brother in the eye. "What I want to also see is for you to do something about it " your drinking, man. You've got a problem, a big-time problem."

 

"John has got some pride in his life now, and he doesn't want to mess that up," Joanne adds. "That's where we want you to be, Tom. We love you."

Tom thanks Dr. Phil for his intervention and for helping him to broker a peace with his brother. He faces John. "I love you, and I screwed up, and I took you down with me for a while there, and I apologize. I miss you," he says. He turns to Dr. Phil. "Thanks to you, it's happening."

"You've got to show me, man," John says. "I'm not going to put up with any drinking. You need to do something about it."

"How much are you drinking?" Dr. Phil asks Tom.

 

"Some days, I could do one of those 1.75 liter bottles by myself," he replies.

 

"So you're drinking a quart a day of hard liquor?" Dr. Phil asks. He runs down a list of the charges against Tom. "You've had one, two, three, four, five D.U.I.s?"

 

"No!" Tom says.

 

Dr. Phil consults his notes. "I've got '92, '96, '00, '01 and '02. In '01, you spent 60 days in jail, and in '02, you spent 125 days in jail," he says

 

"I've had three D.U.I.s," Tom maintains.

 

"Then you were in jail for possession of false birth documents."

 

"That's what it started out with, as the identity theft, that I stole from my brother," Tom explains.

 

"Where do you think this is headed?" Dr. Phil asks.

 

"Absolutely nowhere," Tom says.

Joanne gives Tom an ultimatum. "You need to make a serious decision right here and now," she says. "My heart has been so pained by trying to help you. I've put blood, sweat and tears into helping you."

 

"Have you been drinking today?" Dr. Phil asks Tom.

 

"Yes, I have," he replies. "Half of a quart."

 

Joanne is devastated by the news. She hides her face in her hands, sobbing loudly.

 

"You're drunk," Dr. Phil says, "if you've had a half a quart of alcohol this morning. I can smell it on you. I can see it in your eyes ... Look at your sister right now. Does she look like she is a happy person?"

 

"I can't do this anymore, Tom. I just can't," Joanne says, through tears. "If you keep doing this, I have to just think of you as already dead because I keep worrying about you."

 

"This was your chance," John says.

After the show, Dr. Phil addresses the siblings. "What do you want to see happen here?" he asks John.

 

"I would love to see him be ready to reach out, but it's got to come from inside. He's got to want help, and take it and get control of his life," John replies.

 

"If you leave here and go back to what you're doing, what's going to happen to you?" Dr. Phil asks Tom.

 

"I want to be able to apologize to my brother and let him know, if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, or 10 minutes from now, I want him to know that yes, I'm accountable, and I acknowledge what I did to you, and what I took from you, and what I put you through," Tom says, facing his sibling.

 

Dr. Phil sympathizes with Tom, but says he needs to man up. "I had alcohol in my family, so I am not a stranger to this at all. You need to understand that talk is really cheap," he says. "The best gift that you can give back to [John], the best amends that you can make with him for victimizing him and what you've done, for the pain that you're causing in your sister's life, is to straighten yourself up."

 

He offers Tom another chance at sobriety. "I will send you to what I believe is the top rehabilitation program in the country, and that is La Hacienda. I will send you there, but you've got to want it, and you've got to do it."

 

"I would love to," Tom says, closing his eyes in gratitude.