Sheriff: Pasco man stole dead man's identity for years

- A twisted case of identity theft, that Pasco County deputies said lasted two decades, finally unraveled and landed a Zephyrhills man in jail this week.

"People are going to say, 'I can't believe that happened.' It happened. And now he's going to be paying the price for all the lives he destroyed," Sheriff Chris Nocco said.

Nocco said Richard Hoagland's path of destruction began after a divorce from his first wife in Indiana, where he was born. He would remarry, bring his two children from the previous marriage and have two more kids with his new wife.

Hoagland's second wife told detectives he went on the run in 1993 after he claimed to have emezzled more than $1 million because the "Feds were after him." Hoagland disappeared and, after his family hadn't heard from him for 10 years, they had him declared dead.

But they had no idea he had moved to Palm Beach, Fla. where he moved in with a stranger, Edward  Symansky, who was looking for a roommate.

"While living with Edward Symansky, he finds a death certificate for Terry Symansky. Terry had died August 6, 1991 of drowning and alcoholism," Nocco said.

According to investigators, after Edward Symansky died of natural causes in 1994, Hoagland assumed  the name "Terry Symansky."

A year later, he would move to the Tampa Bay area and meet a woman who would become his third wife and they had a son together.

"He's living the life, he has a child with this third wife. They have no idea about his previous life," the sheriff said.

But things began to unravel in 2013 when the a nephew of the real Terry Symansky was doing a family  project on Ancestry.com.

"[The nephew] sees documentation that Terry Symansky was remarried in 1995," Nocco said, noting that was four years after the real Terry Symansky died.

Detectives in two states began to look into what was going on and realized Richard Hoagland was living under an assumed name.

Investigators also found out he owned property in Pasco County under a fake name and even got a pilot's license using his false identity.

Deputies arrested Hoagland Tuesday at his home in Zephyrhills. Afterward, his current wife remembered a brief case in the attic.

"There was a brief case that had been in the attic and she had never really bothered with it but she had broken it open now because of everything that's happening and in that information, she finds all the real information about Richard Hoagland. All his life is revealed inside that box," Nocco explained.

The sheriff said Hoagland, 63, confessed to the identity theft and said he left his second wife because they were having problems and he couldn't deal with getting divorced a second time.

The FBI is looking into his second wife's embezzlement claims and the FAA is determining whether to charge him for using a fake identity to get a pilot's license.

"This is really a crime that has destroyed families," Nocco said, reiterating that one family thought he was dead and another thought he was a different people. "This is a selfish coward."

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