Sailor used fake name for decades

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- For 22 years, Arturo Puente has been in the Navy with assignments at embassies in Rome and Panama. He is now a chief petty officer at Mayport Naval Station.


But the State Department says the real Arturo Puente died in 1980 at age 11 — shortly after his his birth certificate was stolen in Oregon.

Last week, the 41-year-old man now identified as John Doe was arrested in Jacksonville on a warrant accusing him of making a false statement in a 2006 application for a diplomatic passport. He is accused of using the dead child’s name throughout his Navy career and in a half dozen passport applications.

Back on base after a federal magistrate released him without bail, he told the Florida Times-Union he’s “confused” about his arrest, even while conceding Arturo Puente isn’t really his name.

“I haven’t heard anything,” he said during a brief phone interview Monday. “I went back to the base and back to work, and they treated me like nothing ever happened.”

An engineman on the USS Hue City, he has been at Mayport since January. He also was at Mayport from 2000 to 2002, according to the Navy.

In court he requested a preliminary hearing in the District of Columbia, where the warrant was issued and the case will be prosecuted. He signed papers with the name Guillermo Salinas Guzman.

A Mayport spokesman said Navy legal officials were declining comment because the investigation is ongoing.

The issue came to light in September after the Diplomatic Security Service conducted an investigation to determine if identities of deceased people in Oregon were being used to acquire U.S. passports, according to a court affidavit by State Department Special Agent Mark P. Baird.

Baird said the investigation found that a diplomatic passport sought by the chief petty officer in 2006 matched the name, birthday and parents of Arturo Puente, who died of an asthma attack in April 1980. The boy’s mother told a Diplomatic Security agent his birth certificate was stolen in a car burglary in 1978 or 1979, Baird said.

The passport was sought through the Defense Intelligence Agency as part of the man’s Navy duties, Baird said.

Further investigation showed the same sailor had used Puente’s name when he joined the Navy in 1987 and on diplomatic and tourist passports six times from 1990 to 2004, the affidavit says. The birth certificate he used was issued in 1985, after Puente died, Baird said.

“Subject’s true identity is unknown,” Baird wrote.

Federal prosecutors in Jacksonville and Washington declined comment on the case. The defendant waived any further hearings in Jacksonville.



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