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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 26 February, 2003, 09:58 GMT
How the mix-up happened
Derek Bond
Mr Bond was arrested and imprisoned in Durban
After nearly two weeks in a South African jail, Bristol pensioner Derek Bond has finally been cleared of a multi-million dollar fraud scam in the United States.

FBI agents had him detained in Durban on 6 February believing him to be "Derek Sykes" - a man sought by US agencies for a telemarketing sting.

Now, however, in a late night call to the BBC, US prosecutors have revealed their blunder - fuelled by the frightening practice of identity theft.

John Lewis, prosecutor in the US Attorneys office in Houston Texas, said Mr Bond had been the victim of an elaborate identity swap.

He said: "His details were used as long ago as the late 1980's.

"There are a lot of details that exist explaining how the FBI reached the conclusion that the man they were looking for was Mr Bond."

I think you've got the wrong man in South Africa
Anonymous call to US prosecutors

Mr Lewis said that, on Tuesday afternoon, he received an anonymous phone message, giving details relating to the case.

The caller said: "You are looking for Derek Lloyd Sykes".

The caller then gave a date of birth for the real Mr Sykes and a British passport number and the name under which he is calling himself in the United States - Robert James Grant, based at an address in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The caller then said "I think you've got the wrong man in South Africa".

Mr Lewis said the caller's information was so specific it seemed credible.

"I then passed that information onto the FBI (in Las Vegas) and we both decided it needed to be acted upon," he said.

Release

FBI officers then went to address in Las Vegas and found Robert James Grant, who admitted his real name was Derek Lloyd Sykes.

Derek Bond's ordeal
Feb 6: Arrested on arrival in South Africa
Feb 10: Agreed to be extradited to US to clear his name
Feb 14: US authorities discover Mr Bond is claiming mistaken identity
Feb 25: US prosecutor tipped off about "real" Mr Sykes in Las Vegas, Nevada
Feb 26: Mr Bond released

Mr Sykes admitted his involvement with Insnet (the telemarketing company at the centre of the fraud allegations) which convinced the FBI that Mr Bond was a case of mistaken identity.

They contacted colleagues in South Africa to arrange for the Bristol pensioner's release.

Mr Lewis said that despite being arrested on 6 February, it was only on 14 February that the FBI discovered Mr Bond was claiming to be the victim of false identification.

US officers were encouraged to continue investigating him after photos of Mr Bond were positively identified by another man involved in the telemarketing fraud.

This identification has subsequently been exposed as false.

Finally, Mr Lewis expressed his sincere apologies to Mr Bond and his family, and said he was relieved that both the innocent man had been cleared, and the right man arrested.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Nick Young, solicitor specialising in fraud cases
"There are various legal methods of obtaining personal data to be used in an illegal way"



SEE ALSO:
FBI clears British pensioner
26 Feb 03 |  England
Profile: Derek Bond
25 Feb 03 |  England
Grandfather 'left to rot'
25 Feb 03 |  England


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