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puts man in jail
MICHIGAN CITY — He caused a Portage man to spend eight months in jail for a string of thefts he didn’t commit.
It’s now payback time for Carter Metheny.
The 30-year old Metheny appears headed to prison after pleading guilty in LaPorte Superior Court 1 on Thursday to four counts of forgery.
According to court records, Portage resident Steven Benke had his identity stolen after misplacing his Indiana driver’s license in May 2000.
Somehow, Metheny, of Michigan City, stumbled across it and used the name and address to obtain a new license containing Metheny’s photo.
Metheny then passed bad checks he endorsed with Benke’s name in Porter, LaPorte and other counties to obtain cash and merchandise and produced the driver’s license to show he was Benke, court documents revealed.
Eventually, Benke landed in the Porter County Jail where he insisted he was innocent.
He also challenged authorities to compare his signature to the handwriting on the forged checks, according to court documents.
His claims, though, fell on deaf ears.
After nearly eight months, Benke was transferred to the LaPorte County Jail to face charges stemming from numerous other check forgeries.
Several weeks later, he persuaded LaPorte County Deputy Prosecutor Thomas Alevizos to look into the matter.
“I called the Porter County prosecutor’s office and they said he was telling them the same story,’’ said Alevizos.
“Every place I turned it seemed like this guy was telling the truth,’’ said Alevizos.
So, Alevizos said he went to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles and uncovered two driver’s licenses that had been issued to Benke that same year.
One license contained Benke’s photo while the other displayed a picture of a man later identified as Metheny.
All of the charges against Benke were then dismissed.
“The guy spent nearly one year in jail falsely accused before they found out it was Metheny,’’ said Alevizos.
Metheny turned up about a year later in the Lake County Jail charged with theft-related crimes.
If the court accepts the plea on March 13, Metheny will receive a six-year prison sentence.
In general, LaPorte County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Atley Price said offenders who commit crimes routinely deny guilt.
Defendants also have a responsibility to come up with evidence proving innocence if they feel wrongly accused, said Price.
“His voice wasn’t heard because of other people who are guilty and say they are not,’’ said David Sirugo, who was Benke’s former public defender in LaPorte County.
Benke has since been hit with theft charges which are pending in Porter County. He could not be reached for comment.
(c) 2003 Ostergren, P.C. (Page Format Only)