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Colorado Springs woman used ID of girl who died on moving sidewalk

A Colorado Springs woman is accused of stealing the identity of a child from Texas who died in a horrifying accident on a moving sidewalk at a Dallas airport in the 1960s.

According to Colorado Springs police, Deborah Lester posed as Tina Marie Brandon for 28 years.

We found obituary records for Brandon saying that she died on Jan. 1, 1960 when her clothes got caught in a moving sidewalk inside Dallas Love Field airport. Historical records say Brandon was at the airport for a relative’s departure but she was fascinated by the sidewalk. When she leaned down for a closer look, her jacket sleeve got caught in a belt, and her clothes became caught under the mechanism until she was crushed to death.

Lester’s story picks up in 1980, when she went to a Social Security Administration office in Dallas and presented a falsified birth certificate for Brandon. She got a Social Security number in Brandon’s name, and from that point, she lived under both names.

According to an arrest affidavit, she married once as Deborah Lester and once as Tina Brandon (becoming Tina Marie Toch). She started up multiple businesses and opened bank accounts under both names, and she obtained Colorado IDs and driver licenses as well.

For more than two decades, Lester continued to live under both names and even used her fake name for two speeding tickets in Colorado Springs, the first in 2004 and the second in 2015.

In September, Lester met with her financial advisor and told him she was being investigated by the U.S. State Department, so she decided to come clean and admit that she falsified her identity.

Lester told her advisor that she assumed Brandon’s identity because she “wanted to be someone else.” Because the advisor had opened bank accounts under Lester’s fraudulent name, he told her he had to report the information to police.

The FBI began investigating based on the financial advisor’s tip and then interviewed Lester on Sept. 27.

During that interview, Lester admitted she knew what she was doing “was wrong” and she said she got the idea when she saw a movie. She researched birth and death certificates and discovered Brandon’s death. She decided to assume Brandon’s identity and lived as both until she was “discovered having traveled on fraudulent passports.”

Lester faces charges of identity theft, a class-four felony, and criminal impersonation, a class-six felony.

Brandon’s accident prompted action by Dallas Mayor R.L. Thornton and moving sidewalk manufacturers to improve safety clearance at the step-off plate.

KRDO News

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