Richard Hoagland (left) was arrested Wednesday after accused of stealing the identity of Terry Jude Symansky (right) who drowned in 1991. 
Photo: Pasco County Sheriff's Office/ Tampa Bay Times
Photo: Pasco County Sheriff's Office/ Tampa Bay Times

Florida man raises family for 20 years with dead man's identity

A mother and son in the Tampa-area had no idea their loving husband and father was living a lie for the past 25 years using the identity of a dead man.

Terry Jude Symansky and Mary Hickman got married and settled down in Zephyrhills, Florida two decades ago. Symansky had a son, bought properties, worked "odd jobs," and obtained a pilot's license, the Tampa Bay Times reports

But Symansky wasn't really a man of his word.

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In April, a nephew of the real Terry Symansky discovered through that someone was using his late uncle's identity and came forward to police.

When Mary Hickman was notified of the crime, she then discovered documents in her attic that proved her husband was using the identity of a man who drowned in 1991 at just 33 years old.

Her husband Symansky was actually 63-year-old Richard Hoagland -- a man who "disappeared" from Indiana and was declared dead in 2003. He was arrested on Wednesday and taken to Pasco County Jail. 

Hoagland had four children with two different wives back in Indiana, and told officers the reason he left was because he just wanted to get away from his previous wife, according to the Tampa Bay Times. 

Hoagland's ex-wife in Indiana told police that Hoagland told her he "had to disappear because he had stolen millions and was wanted by the FBI," the Tampa Bay Times reports. 

Both of Hoagland's Indiana wives presumed he was dead for all these years, police said. 

But how did Hoagland steal this man's identity?

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Hoagland once lived with the real Symansky's father in Palm Beach County. Hoagland discovered a copy of Terry Symansky's death certificate and used it to get a birth certificate from Ohio. He then used that certificate to get an Alabama driver's license and then obtained a Florida driver's license. 

The real Symansky was reportedly a commercial fisherman who was never married or had children. The Pasco County Sheriff's Offfice said to the Times that makes a "perfect candidate for identity theft."  

The Sheriff's Office is investigating whether Hoagland was actually wanted by the FBI, but state records show that hes never been arrested, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

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