ASHLAND CITY, Tenn. (WKRN) – Ashland City police arrested a 15-year-old Honduran boy who they say lied about his identity so he could work at a Cheatham County manufacturing company using another man’s identity.
According to Ashland City police investigators, it all began Tuesday morning when Officer Rick Arguello got a call from Austin Willis.
The 22-year-old McKewen, Tennessee, man told the corporal he believed someone was working at the Rogers Manufacturing Corporation pretending to be him.
Corporal Arguello said, “He receives welfare, food stamps from the government and he got a letter that said his food stamps would be affected because he works at Rogers Manufacturing. He called Rogers, who confirmed, yes, he works there, and he said, ‘I have never been to Ashland City.’”
Corporal Arguello went to the plant and asked to speak to Austin Willis. Company officials said he is working, and they bring him to the office.
“They said yes, this man is working right now, as a matter of fact. So, they went and got him and it’s a Hispanic male and I asked him if he was Michael with that last name. he said he didn’t speak English, so I asked him what his name was, and he could hardly pronounce it. And I asked him to spell it and he had trouble spelling it. And I asked him how old he was. He said 22, no 21. I asked him, ‘What’s your birthday?’ He said, ‘I don’t remember,’” Arguello said.
Officer Arguello continued, “He looked 12 in my opinion.”
Investigators said the company hired a 15-year-old boy who said he walked to the U.S. from Honduras three months ago.
“He kind of came clean,” Arguello said. “He wasn’t really truthful about much, but we find out he is here illegally, and his parents are still in Honduras, so he has no guardian.”
Authorities said somehow the Honduran teen got to Middle Tennessee, illegally obtained Willis’ name, social security number, and a Tennessee license with his face and Willis’ personal info.
Then the teen, who can barely speak English or even say his own name, got a job at the Rogers Manufacturing Corporation.
“It’s a sad situation for a child who has to come here, and work and his parents are in their country and he is by himself and has to fend for himself pretty much,” Arguello said.
Police told News 2 the boy had been living in Nashville, but it is unclear if his relative was a brother or possibly a cousin.
On Tuesday, the teen pleaded guilty to identity theft and criminal impersonation.
He’s now in state custody and News 2 has learned that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has also been notified.
By phone, the real Austin Willis talked to News 2 about this alarming series of events.
He said he tried numerous times to tell company officials he couldn’t be working at their plant because he was in McKewen, Tennessee, about to cut his lawn.
Willis said, “I was trying to explain to them. I was going to mow the yard at home right now and they’re telling me that I was on the clock working.”
Willis said he has never worked for the company and has never been to Ashland City.
“No, I never even heard of their name. The woman I was talking to thought I was lying. I told them I had to look your company up to get the phone number; I never even heard of the company. They thought I was lying. They had all my info. They had my ID, my social security card, my address exactly. Everything,” he said.
Willis said when officials at the company wouldn’t listen to him, he decided to contact Ashland City Police.
According to police, the teen reported making $13 an hour at the plant.
Willis is not sure how his information was breached. So far, he said he has not seen anything negative in any of his financial statements.
He told News 2, a 15-year-old boy being able to enter the U.S., access his identity and get a job is very alarming.
“Yeah, luckily I got no bank accounts or nothing. No telling what else he could have gotten from me.”
A spokesman for the Rogers Manufacturing Corporation sent News 2 a statement that read, “Rogers Manufacturing Corporation follows all local, state and federal laws during our hiring process. We make every effort to ensure the validity of all employees’ documentation upon hire by observation as well as uses the federal e-verify system with all new hires. Furthermore, RMC also aids all local, state and federal law enforcement to investigate and hold accountable those known to be using falsified documentation. We want to thank the Ashland City Police Department for bringing this to our attention and we will do all we can to aid in their investigation.”