The family history and genealogy website Ancestry.com boasts more than 75 million searches each day.
Most of those turn up routine details about family pasts and distant relatives. They don't usually find fugitives.
But a Montgomery County man is now facing federal identity theft charges after having allegedly impersonated another man since escaping from a halfway house in 1996. His two decades of impersonation were uncovered after an Ancestry.com user's search turned up activity for a deceased relative, according to federal prosecutors.
Jon Vincent, 44, of Lansdale, was charged this week with one count of aggravated identity theft, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia said. He was charged by information, which indicates that he is cooperating with prosecutors.
Vincent had been on the lam since he escaped from a Texas halfway house in March 1996, according to court documents. He had been sent to the halfway house after a criminal conviction and prison term.
The documents do not give more information about Vincent's criminal past, but Texas court records indicate that someone with his name and birthdate was convicted in 1991 of indecency with a child and released from prison in October 1995.
Shortly after Vincent escaped, he stole the name of a deceased child named Nathan Laskoski, and obtained a birth certificate and Social Security number in that name, the documents said. Nathan was born in October 1972 and died in December 1972.
The identity theft was uncovered when a relative of Nathan's found information on Ancestry.com indicating that someone was impersonating him. The relative found several marriages and residences in multiple states linked to Nathan Laskoski, and contacted authorities after discovering a Social Security number and public marriage and divorce records for him.