Identity Theft Victim Falsely Arrested For Check Fraud Plans to Sue

A 29 year old man from Tampa, Florida, mistakenly left his wallet at a Denny’s restaurant on August 1 of last year. Nine days later, the thief – who resembled him – arrived at a bank with his identification and tried to pass a fraudulent check for $2,465.90. The bank was suspicious and the suspect fled without the cash. Police were notified and then the botched investigation began.

Let’s start at the beginning of the story.

It was a Tuesday night, and that meant that kids eat free at Denny’s. Tallie Gainer III, who was saving to buy a business, took his four children out to eat and they enjoyed a nice meal together. Denny’s only charged him around $7.00. It turned out to be a much more expensive experience for Gainer though; the following months would shatter his dreams and the family’s future.

As he finished paying for the family’s meal, Gainer noticed his 1 year old daughter headed towards the door. He raced off to catch her and left his wallet behind on the cash register. In that moment of caring for his child, he made a mistake that gave a criminal the opportunity to turn his life upside down.

Tallie Gainer III became a victim of identity theft. Adding insult to injury, police arrested him in front of his children, and he was charged with check fraud, even though he had earlier reported his wallet, identification and credit cards stolen.

Five months and $60,000 later Mr. Gainer was cleared of all charges. Police realized that a clear fingerprint on the front of the fraudulent check was that of the thief, and not Gainer. They had this fingerprint evidence from the start of the case, but investigators didn’t bother to try to match it to Gainer until late April, after the documents were finally delivered to Gainer’s criminal defense attorney.

A spokesman for the Pasco County Sheriff said “Although the arrest, on its surface, was a good arrest, we did arrest the wrong person.”

You have to ponder that statement for a moment and wonder what exactly could be good about a wrongful arrest that has cost Mr. Gainer so dearly. Before the arrest, he had planned to buy a coin operated laundry and ice cream shop, which he had hoped to expand and someday pass on to his children. His arrest, the expense of his defense, and the prospect of spending 5 years in prison crushed his plans. Someone else purchased the business while Gainer was being falsely accused of check fraud.

Mr. Gainer says he plans to file a personal injury lawsuit with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office and the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office. Authorities have six months to decide if they would like to settle this case out of court or face the possibility of uncapped punitive damages that Mr. Gainer could be awarded in court.

Gainer’s lawyer has also filed a request for administrative expungement to have the record of Gainer’s arrest purged. Before this nightmare Gainer had no criminal history. He is a college graduate, a homeowner, a youth minister, a devoted husband and father. The sheriff’s office says that they filed the paperwork after news of this story first made headlines weeks ago.