Woman pleads guilty to stealing dead baby’s identity, $1.5M fraud

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A woman pleaded guilty in federal court to charges she used a dead child’s identity to get a passport, pilot license and a job, as well as obtained $1.5 million in loans fraudulently.

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The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio said in a news release that Ava Misseldine accepted a plea deal for 16 counts of wire and passport fraud. Under the terms of the plea, Misseldine will pay more than $1.5 million in restitution, and forfeit one home and the profits from a second that were purchased with stolen money.

Prosecutors said that in 2003, Misseldine applied for an Ohio ID, a Social Security card and driver’s license using the identity of a baby who died in 1979 and is buried in a Columbus cemetery. Misseldine was accused of using the same fraudulent identity in 2007 to obtain a student pilot certificate and a U.S. passport. Misseldine submitted paperwork at the time saying she needed the passport to travel internationally as part of her job, which she listed as a flight attendant for JetSelect. Prosecutors said she was employed by the company under the false identity.

Investigators said Misseldine used the fake identity for the next 13 years, until an investigation was launched in 2021 when she tried to renew the passport under the fake name, WSYX reported.

Prosecutors said that Misseldine used the false identity, in addition to her own, to obtain approximately $1.5 million in fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program loans in 2020. Misseldine used forged documents to support loan applications for a number of bakeries and a catering company, including her former bakeries in Dublin, New Albany and Easton, Ohio, WBNS reported.

Misseldine was accused of using the money, which had been designated for companies struggling because of COVID-19, to purchase a home for $647,500 adjacent to Zion National Park in Utah and a home in Michigan for $327,500.

Misseldine moved to Utah, and prosecutors said she obtained driver’s licenses in the state in 2021 in both her own and the dead baby’s names. She was arrested in Utah in June 2022.

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