Crime of identity theft becomes chilling ordeal.

The long ordeal Candida L. Gutierrez had to suffer after another woman literally stole her life is something that shouldn't be wished upon anyone, although it should be enough to convince everyone of the importance of protecting their own identity.

Fortunately, the worst is behind Gutierrez although some legal clean-up still remains to be done and she can feel comfortable about moving on with her life without the illegal shadow that has tormented her for almost 12 years.

That shadow and imposter, illegal immigrant Benita Cardona-Gonzalez, a Topeka resident, was sentenced Monday in federal court in Wichita to 18 months in prison for possessing fraudulent identification documents, after which time she will be deported.

Some readers of, who added their comments to a story by The Associated Press about Gutierrez and Cardona-Gonzalez, suggested an 18-month prison term was not nearly enough punishment for the damage and pain inflicted by the identity thief.

... Frankly, it is what it is and Gutierrez, a schoolteacher in Houston, now has her life back and her tormentor can do her no more harm. Her experience, however, should serve as a warning to all of us. ...

The Associated Press story didn't note how Cardona-Gonzalez managed to steal Gutierrez's identity in the first place, but once she had it, the Mexico native used it to get bank accounts, a job, driver's license and a home mortgage, all in Gutierrez's name. ...

During sentencing, the attorney for Cardona-Gonzalez said his client didn't have an understanding of how difficult it would be for Gutierrez to get her identity back. That's difficult to believe, given how deeply Cardona-Gonzalez immersed herself in her false identity and the fact she was brazen enough to claim she was the identity theft victim and was even issued a new Social Security number.

Apparently, it's easier to lose an identity than to reclaim it. That's why it's important everyone protect their own and be careful about sharing personal information that could be used to create, on paper, a duplicate.

-- The Topeka Capital-Journal