A former bakery owner was pretending to be someone else when she applied for a passport, got a job as a flight attendant and defrauded the government out of pandemic relief money, officials said.
Authorities said Ava Misseldine, formerly of Columbus, Ohio, was convicted of theft, forgery and escape in 1997 before her release from prison in 2000.
A few years later, in 2003, she was photographed getting an Ohio ID card with the name “Brie Bourgeois,” authorities said. Brie was a baby who died in 1979 and was buried in a Columbus cemetery, according to court records.
Misseldine had stolen the dead infant’s identity — then continued to use her real and fake name for years, authorities said.
Authorities began investigating when she tried to renew a fraudulent passport in 2021, according to an Oct. 5 news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio.
Misseldine pleaded guilty on Oct. 5 in federal court to 16 counts of wire and passport fraud, according to the news release. In addition to facing decades in prison, she agreed to pay more than $1.5 million in restitution, forfeit her Utah home and give up the profits from her Michigan house that was recently sold.
“Ms. Misseldine is very remorseful for her actions and looks forward to making full restitution to the United States and then moving forward with her life,” defense attorney Alan Pfeuffer said in a statement to McClatchy News.
After applying for an Ohio ID card in 2003, authorities say Misseldine — posing as Bourgeois — then applied for a Social Security card, according to a criminal complaint in federal court. She lied about being home-schooled and said she needed to get a Social Security card to enroll in college, officials said.
She provided Bourgeois’s birth certificate and her newly issued ID card, according to the criminal complaint. Also in 2003, Misseldine got a driver’s license using her new identity.
With those identification documents, Misseldine worked several jobs, authorities said.
In 2007, she used her stolen identity to get a student pilot certificate and U.S. passport, according to the complaint. She said she needed a passport to travel internationally as a flight attendant for JetSelect.
“Over the next 13 years, Misseldine continued to obtain identity documents in both her real and fake names,” authorities said.
When the U.S. Small Business Administration began offering Paycheck Protection Program loans to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities said Misseldine defrauded the government out of about $1.5 million.
She did so using her real and stolen identities, records show.
Her submitted PPP loan applications listed several businesses — including her former bakeries Sugar Inc(luded) Cupcakes and Koko Bakery — and included forged documents.
Authorities said she used the pandemic relief money to buy a $647,500 home near Zion National Park in Utah and a Michigan house for $327,500.
Misseldine was arrested in June while she was in Utah, according to the news release.