ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. — A Florida man pretended to be someone else for more than 20 years, and his wife didn’t even know, Pasco County deputies say.
Richard Hoagland, 63, decided not to be Richard Hoagland in 1992 after two failed marriages and four children, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said. His second wife said he just disappeared one day, according to Bay News 9.
“Linda states that Richard Hoagland had three businesses that were related to insurance,” Sheriff Chris Nocco said. “She states that he embezzled over $1 million.”
Investigators said Hoagland ended up in Palm Beach and began living with a man whose son was deceased. He found his death certificate and assumed Terry Symanksy’s identity, according to authorities. Symansky died in August 1991.
“He uses the death certificate to apply for a new birth certificate from Ohio; Ohio gives him the birth certificate,” Nocco said. “He uses that birth certificate to apply by mail for a driver’s license in Alabama; he then gets that Alabama driver’s license and uses it to apply for a Florida driver’s license.”
A few years later, he remarried and put down roots in Zephyrhills. His neighbors knew him as their landlord — he owned several homes surrounding his. But they knew him as Terry.
“We’ve been personal with him quite a bit, and Terry’s the nicest guy anyone could ever meet,” said one of his tenants, Gregory Yates.
Hoagland, his wife and teenage son lived on the property.
“He’s a really nice guy, and he’s a really good landlord. Never would have known this, couldn’t imagine this was happening,” said another tenant, Dean Lockwood.
Hoagland was found out because a nephew of Symansky was doing research on Ancestry.com. He then found more information about his “uncle” on Google — including that he was now a pilot.
The family called police, who then contacted the Pasco Sheriff’s Office.
Detectives showed up at Hoagland’s home Wednesday, and that’s when his wife learned everything.
“For 20 years, she’s been lied to, so now she doesn’t know what she has to do as far as whether her marriage is even legal — what’s going to happen to all the properties they own, their bank accounts. The son has the last name Symansky,” Det. Anthony Cardillo said.
It’s not just his family wondering what’s next.
“I like it here, so I don’t know what’s going to happen now,” Lockwood said.
Hoagland has been charged with identity theft, but the Sheriff’s Office said it has notified federal agencies, and more charges may be coming.
Investigators said Hoagland admitted to using a false identity for over 20 years. He said he ran from his old life because he didn’t want to go through another divorce.