True Crime Thursday – You Got the Wrong Guy

By Debbie Burke


Photo credit: Alex Galloso, Unsplash

We’re all aware of the staggering rise of identity theft that can screw up our credit. According to the Insurance Information Institute, in 2020, the FTC received 4.8 million reports of identity theft and fraud, a 45% increase from 2019.

But if a criminal claims to be you, does that mean you could be locked up for an outstanding warrant?

In the case of Jonah Scott Miller, yes.

When Zin Mali McDade, a transient, was arrested in Brevard County, Florida, he claimed his name was Jonah Scott Miller, who had been a childhood acquaintance. Both were born in December, 1985, six days apart. However, Jonah is 6’2” and Zin is 5’7”.

The real Jonah, who works security for a hospital, was arrested during Bike Week in Daytona Beach in 2019 on a failure to appear warrant for shoplifting, a warrant actually meant for Zin.

When Jonah told police they had the wrong man and he had never been to Brevard County, the arresting officer accused him of lying. According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, she said:

“I suggest you get a lawyer because somebody’s lying. If it’s not you lying to me, it’s somebody you know because they know way too much about you. They knew your date of birth, your social, where you were born, your address and they have your tattoos.”

Jonah protested his tattoos couldn’t match anyone else’s because they were the names of his kids.

Apparently, no one at the scene brought up the mugshot from Zin’s arrest.

Jonah was booked into Volusia County Jail. There, officers discovered the mugshot on file didn’t match the real Jonah. The fingerprints on record also didn’t match the real Jonah. Yet, despite the obvious mistake, the innocent victim of identity theft spent the night in jail.

Attorney Steve Weisman of recommends being proactive if someone impersonates you. Contact a lawyer, law enforcement, and the prosecutor/district attorney to file a report that you are the victim of identity theft. Show your driver’s license, passport, or other photo ID to prove who you are. Request a letter from the district attorney explaining the situation. In some states, you can request an Identity Theft Passport that may help if you are detained because a criminal steals your identity.

Booking photo of Zin Mali McDade


Whatever happened to Zin Mali McDade (alias Jonah Scott Miller)? He currently resides at the Brevard County Jail in Cocoa, FL.


TKZers: Have you ever been the victim of mistaken or stolen identity? Would you obtain an Identity Theft Passport?

This entry was posted in #truecrimethursday, fraud, identity theft and tagged by Debbie Burke. Bookmark the permalink.

About Debbie Burke

Debbie writes the Tawny Lindholm series, Montana thrillers infused with psychological suspense. Her books have won the Kindle Scout contest, the Zebulon Award, and were finalists for the Eric Hoffer Book Award and Her articles received journalism awards in international publications. She is a founding member of Authors of the Flathead and helps to plan the annual Flathead River Writers Conference in Kalispell, Montana. Her greatest joy is mentoring young writers.

30 thoughts on “True Crime Thursday – You Got the Wrong Guy

  1. Good morning, Debbie. Thanks for an interesting post to start the morning. I don’t know if you would call it a case of mistaken identity in the way that it usually applied, but when I was a teenager my father started a long career in politics. We had the same first and last name. I spent half of my time explaining who I was and the other half explaining who I wasn’t. I was also stopped on by Homeland Security on I-80 in New Jersey several years ago. I apparently looked exactly like a terrorist for whom they were searching. It is fortunate that my courtesy, winning smile, and pleasing personality (as well as my abject innocence and photo ID) carried the day.

    The situation you describe occurs quite frequently in reverse. A wanted felon will give the name of a cousin/brother instead of his own hoping to avoid an arrest. What also frequently happens is that the cousin/brother has warrants of his own, so that the scoundrel attempting to usurp the identity has to back and fill with regard to the identity information previously given.

    I don’t know enough about Identity Theft Passports to answer your question but I’ll certainly check up on them. Thanks for a great start to the day.

      • Debbie, this thief is actually my daughters sperm donor. I have so many stories I could tell. And how hes over $12k behind in child support. But he is not incarcerated in Brevard County, he is still a transient but in Texas now and very hard on meth etc. He has always been a piece of you know what. I could write a book.

  2. Interesting post, Debbie. I can think of only one time that I was the “victim” of mistaken identity. A patient told me that he was convinced that I was the Hooley that he had gotten into an altercation with on a golf course some thirty years previous, a golf course I had never been on, and a fight I had never had on any golf course. He left my practice, but his wife remained a loyal patient. It is interesting that there was a distant relative of mine growing up in the same community, with the same last name, who was into all sports and later became a well known sports reporter.

    I need to learn more about Identity Theft Passports. I’m paranoid enough to worry that the database would be just another database that could be hacked.

    Thanks for an interesting topic. Have a great day!

    • Steve, database security is a real concern, all right. Can you imagine the fun a criminal could have hacking into the Identity Theft Passport site? Endless mischief.

  3. Hi, Debbie. I’ve never been the victim of identity theft, but I did have a mistaken identity incident. On my sixteenth birthday my doctor called my mother to have her rush me back to the office. She said my recent results showed I had cancer, and my mother needed to sit me down and break the news. I spent my birthday thinking I wouldn’t live to see seventeen. After a plethora of unnecessary tests, the doctor discovered she had been looking at another patient’s chart. To this day I still cringe when people bring up sweet sixteen parties.

    • How terrifying, Sue. Glad that idiot doctor was wrong.

      A family member used to go to a medical practice where he had the same name as another patient. The office constantly mixed up the files. The conversation would go:
      “You’re diabetic.”
      “No, I’m not.
      “Yes, you are.”
      “Look, that’s not my right birth date. That’s not my address. Those are not the medicines I take.”
      “Okay, but you’re diabetic.”

      Notice I said *used to go* to that practice.

  4. I don’t recall a case of mistaken identity, Debbie, but I did arrest a guy one time who was born on the same day, month, and year as me in hospitals 60 miles apart (but now 2,000 miles west of our birthplaces). He even had my one of first names but with the wrong spelling. He was the right guy for the crime, however, and he did go to jail for some considerable time.

    • That’s fascinating, Garry–or is it Gary? 😉

      Good thing you weren’t born in the same hospital. You might have gone home with the wrong mommy.

  5. In my NY acting days I was once mistaken for Dennis Quaid. I was in the back of a cab stopped at a light, when a couple of young ladies screamed out the name and waved. I nodded, smiled and waved back. Who was I to disabuse them of such a thrill?

    • Definitely! When I was 17 and 18, back in the late 70s, people would tell me I looked like singer Sean Cassidy, back when both of he and I had luxurious blowdried manes (and I wore contacts) 🙂

    • Those young ladies probably said to each other, “That Dennis Quaid is such a nice guy. Doesn’t have his nose in the air like a lot of big stars.”

      Thanks for a fun story of mistaken identity, Jim.

    • In the Sixties, my older brother was really handsome, drove a cherry red XK-E, and had a phone in his car. (Very, very rare at the time.) Dressed for a fancy date, he parked and got out to make a phone call. A kid came up to him and with huge eyes asked, “Is you a spy, mister?”

      • Marilynn,

        I owned a green Jaguar XKE convertible when I was post-college, employed, and single. If a car could be a prima donna, that one was. I wonder if your brother’s car would start when it rained. 🙂

  6. This isn’t the same thing, but I did a security application so I could help with my kid’s preschool a few years ago. It was embarrassing because the RCMP couldn’t clear me. Turns out there was another man with the same name and was also a child molester. Things were complicated because the other guy had a court ordered warrant for his arrest.

    They explained I was now a person of interest and I was asked to cooperate. My natural response was two-fold since for some reason I felt guilty—then that was then replaced by anger. But, I’m a grownup and held it in. I wanted to scream my head off that whole thing was just – (insert profanity statement here).

    The police were not concerned enough to take me into custody, but they felt my application to work with little kids was suspicious. And so, I had my mug taken, was fingerprinted, and told to not leave the country. They advised me that if I was with other man, to confess and turn myself in.

    It eventually worked out. I got my clearance a few days later, but there was nothing else said on the identity issue. All that hassle and then I had to take the S*&T and abuse from a group of four-year-olds two days a month for the next year.

    • That’s really scary, Ben. Glad you were cleared. Isn’t it funny how, when government agencies make a mistake, they never apologize?

  7. Back in 2016, after an especially brutal string of ID theft problems during the 2015 filing season (2014 tax returns), the IRS established an ID theft PIN system. All victims of tax return ID theft would receive a special secret decoder ring PIN that had to go with the return to verify the ID of the taxpayer when filing electronically. About the fourth return I prepared using the taxpayers secret decoder ring PIN rejected because someone had already filed a return under that social security number. Confused since that was the whole purpose of the special PIN, I called my sister who worked for the IRS at the time. She hemmed and hawed, which was her way of not lying but not telling me anything, so we talked about other things for a few minutes and hung up. Three weeks later the IRS fessed up and admitted that their secret decoder ring database had been hacked.

    ID Theft passport—probably not for me.

    • Douglas, thanks for an interesting story. I’m shocked–shocked, I say–not that the IRS is fallible but that they actually admitted it.

  8. One day the local news showed a picture of a serial rapist. We looked a lot alike. Fortunately the police knew a lot more about him than they told the news. He was arrested a few days later 1000 miles away.

    I have had several friends who have had “issues” with “looking like a suspect”. Another rapist, working the area around my house. About a dozen rapes. The victims gave similar descriptions, 20-25 year old Black Male. Powerfully Built. Shaved head. Knows the area. One of my pizza driver buddies spent two weeks getting pulled over every shift. He was a 20-25 year old Black Male. Powerfully Built. Shaved head. Who knows the area. His father was in the penitentiary and that didn’t help him any either. Sometimes he would get pulled over twice a day.

    Better detective work led to a suspect, arrest, and conviction. Real rapist? 45 years old, not a body builder body, but strong, beard, much darker than my friend. Oh, a fire fighter. That is what led the police to him. Fire fighters work 24 hours on, 48 off. A detective plotted the rapes and found they matched that pattern.

    • I remember you relating that story before, Alan. Truly chilling. Eyewitness descriptions can be notoriously inaccurate. Thank goodness the real rapist was tracked down.

  9. Very important post, Debbie. Like millions of others, I’ve been the victim of online security breaches and have had name, email etc. stolen, more than once. It’s certainly a very wide spread issue. Fortunately, no one has impersonated me so far. Good to know about the ID theft passport.

    Your post prompted me to a do a little internet research, too, on the issue of false arrest, something I’d wondered about with mistaken identity in a criminal case. You likely already knew this, but, legally in the U.S., the police would not have been considered to have made a false arrest, or wrongful one, as long as they were acting reasonably in their actions. However, it’s very unfortunate that Mr. Miller had to spend a night in jail before being released, despite not matching the photo, having the same fingerprints, and being physically larger. At least the real culprit is now the one doing time.

    • Dale, it’s an unfortunate fact of life in today’s world that we all have been or will be victims of identity theft.

      What’s “reasonable” often depends on which side of the jailhouse bars you’re on.

  10. At 4 10 with the body of a hobbit matron, I wish anyone luck trying to pretend to be physical me. Not even those MISSION IMPOSSIBLE guys could pull that one off. Although Tom Cruise is really, really short. Snicker.

    I have been very lucky and very cautious on the financial front so I keep my fingers perpetually crossed on that front and pay for the various protection services.

    • Glad you’ve escaped financial tampering, Marilynn. Most often, we as individuals didn’t do anything wrong or foolish but a third party who rightfully has our personal information gets hacked. Then millions become victims.

  11. I’ve been fortunate to never have had my ID stolen. However, we have friends who immigrated to the U.S. who were too trusting. When they filed their income tax one year, they were informed the paperwork had already been filed and the refund sent. I think they had fallen for that FBI scam where somebody called impersonating the FBI and got lots of personal info.

    Stay safe.

  12. Fascinating story, Debbie. My mother and I both have the same name, and for a while we went to the doctor — until I saw that the doctor had my mother’s medical chart, not mine, and didn’t realize his mistake. I switched docs ASAP.

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