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Operation Deathmatch

In Crime, Politics, World on January 27, 2011 at 3:59 am

Pat Durkin plans to be in the courtroom in Portland Federal Court on Thursday when Doitchen Krasev is sentenced for identity theft.

“He was the toughest defendant I ever encountered in my 25 years,” Durkin said by phone soon after arriving here from San Francisco where he is the Special Agent in a charge for the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security Services.

Krasev is a Bulgarian immigrant who arrived here legally but then fled his life in Washington DC and moved about the country before finally adopting the identity of Jason Evers who was a three-year-old boy murdered in Ohio several years ago.

In that capacity, Durkin oversees the bureau’s Operation Deathmatch.

“We started in 2005′” said Durkin. “We use a computer program to match passport applications with death records and find people who are living under stolen identities.”

Durkin, who is in charge of operations for the Bureau in ten states in the West – besides his main office in San Francisco, he has offices in Portland, Seattle and Denver – said the initial investigation found more than 200 people with stolen identities.

“We’ve had more than 100 convictions,” said Durkin who added most of the people fall into one of four main categories: fugitives, pedophiles, draft deserters and migrant workers here illegally.

“Mostly, they are people looking to leave behind some sort of criminal past,” said Durkin.

Krasev, on the other hand, doesn’t appear to fit neatly into one of those categories.

When he was discovered by Durkin and his agents, he was living in Bend working as an investigator for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

“I don’t know that we ever had someone steal someone’s identity and then become a law enforcement agent,” said Durkin.

Durkin, for his part, hadn’t planned on becoming a law enforcement agent – before joining the DSS he spent five years working as a counselor in a psychiatric hospital.

“I come from a large, Irish Catholic family,” he said. “Someone had to go into law enforcement and it was decided it would be me.”

Durkin, whose dad was an immigration agent at Ellis Island, applied to several different agencies.

“Diplomatic Security was the first to call me back,” he said. “I’ve been with them ever since.”

That was 25 years ago. Since then Durkin has worked all over, including stints in Colombia, Peru and Cuba.

“It’s been busy but fun,” said Durkin. “Not everyone knows about us and even those that do don’t realize the diversity of what the Bureau does. We protect the Secretary of State, we provide the protection for embassies around the world and we oversee protection of visiting dignitaries.”

And in all that time, Durkin had never met anyone quite like Doitchen Krasev.

“When we brought him in, he was very clear – ‘You’ll never find out who I really am,’ he told me,” Durkin said.

“And for a little while, it wasn’t clear that we would,” said Durkin. “Fortunately, good police work made sure he was wrong and we were unable to unravel his story. His real story.”

Durkin won’t be the only interested observer watching when Krasev is sentenced,

The family of Jason Evers, the boy who was kidnapped and murdered, whose identity was stolen by Krasev, will also be there. And when the sentencing is done, Krasev and the family will meet.

And soon after that, Durkin will be back on a plane to San Francisco. There are, after all, more cases to pursue.

Durkin said that what often happens is that someone will start by getting a birth certificate.

“Then they go after a drivers license and start to get overly confident,” said Durkin. “And then they decide ti go after the gold standard – a passport – and that’s when we catch them.”

Durkin said that one of the issues that make it easy for criminals is that some states allow you to get a birth certificate online.

“All you need is the date of birth and the names of the parents,” he said. “Krasev figured out how easy it was.”

Durkin said they need to close that loophole.

“In the meantime, we keep running checks,” said Durkin. “And we keep finding more people.”

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