Medford man headed to prison for stealing identity 40 years ago

A Medford resident who stole the identity of a North Carolina man more than 40 year ago was sentenced today to one year and one day in federal prison.

Gerald Lester Tracy, 65, also must pay back almost $29,000 in fraudulently obtained Social Security benefits, ruled U.S. District Court Judge Owen Panner.

Tracy assumed Thomas William Edgeworth's identity in 1967 in an attempt to start life anew without the baggage of two felony robbery convictions, said U.S. District Attorney Judith Harper.

Over 42 years, Tracy lead a life of deceit that entangled Edgeworth and at least two other men, Harper said.

"We will probably never know the extent of his crimes," Harper said.

Defense attorney Robert Stone urged Panner to give his client credit for time served since he was arrested more than five months ago and noted he has been hospitalized three times since he was lodged at the county jail.

Tracy's estranged wife, Lisa Edgeworth, called the identity theft "a victimless crime." Her husband made up for a criminal past by pulling people out of burning planes, saving toddlers and adults from dangerous situations and completing other heroic acts, she said.

The real Thomas Edgeworth, a North Carolina State Highway Patrol employee who testified prior to Tracy's sentencing, said he has been battling fallout from the identity theft since 1998 and is attempting to resolve the matter with his local Social Security office.

"It is obvious that Mr. Tracy is a habitual criminal," said Edgeworth. "And he's been living a lie. Mr Tracy has spent 40 years of my life trying to take my life."

Panner sentenced Tracy to one year plus one day for each of two counts of making a false statement in past court appearances and misuse of a Social security number. The sentences will be served concurrently. He dismissed a charge of aggravated identity theft. Tracy must pay back $28,689.30 in fraudulently obtained Social Security benefits.

— Sanne Specht

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