Undeterred investigator works to identify man who was arrested, convicted under innocent man’s name

Stock image | Photo by MattGush/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A man is back in jail on a case filed in 2019 following a 20-mile pursuit between a semitractor-trailer and a legion of officers, from which the suspect was arrested, booked and convicted of crimes using the name of a man in Georgia.

Aubrey Shawn Bettis, 49, of St. George, was booked into jail as Kayode Quadri after stealing the man’s identity when he was booked into jail in Washington County, Utah, Aug. 26, 2019 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

The case, which has made a convoluted journey through the criminal justice system in Utah, stems from an incident that took place on Aug. 26, 2019 when a suspect who identified himself as 37-year-old Kayoda Quadri from Danville, Illinois, failed to comply with an Arizona Highway Patrol trooper. The trooper attempted to stop the semi, but the suspect continued into Utah, headed northbound on Interstate 15, where officers from multiple agencies continued to pursue the semi, according to the probable cause statement filed in support of the arrest.

After evading police for more than 20 miles the vehicle was rendered immobile by a set of spike strips deployed near Exit 10. When Washington County Sheriff’s officer Dan Malone opened the driver’s door of the semi the suspect reportedly pulled the door closed and laughed, refusing to exit. Malone and another officer opened the door again and “assisted the subject out of the truck,” the statement said. Officers searched the vehicle and found the driver’s wallet with a fabricated Illinois I.D. under the name of Quadri, which the suspect allegedly told officers was a fake identification card he made himself when he lost his card, but then said he used his “real” name on the ID card that also listed the suspect’s date of birth as April 9, 1982.

During the stop on I-15, officers found that the suspect’s Illinois I.D. card had actually been surrendered, but a records check revealed the suspect did have a valid Georgia driver’s license also under the name of Quadri. According to the report, during a search of the truck, officers found suspected illegal drugs and paraphernalia that later tested positive for methamphetamine.

The driver was arrested and booked into jail on felony charges of producing or transferring a false identification document and failure to stop or respond at command of police, as well as misdemeanor charges of interfering with an arrest, possession of a controlled substance and use or possession of drug paraphernalia.

It would be more than a year before authorities would learn the man they stopped was actually 49-year-old Aubrey Shawn Bettis, who was born on Aug. 14, 1970.

When Bettis was booked into jail, he was fingerprinted and those prints were sent to the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification and entered into the FBI’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which is used to confirm the identity of inmates and find any active warrants issued by other law enforcement agencies.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office received no further information from the Bureau that the prints belonged to anyone else – including anyone with the last name of Bettis.

With no indication the suspect was anyone other than Quadri, the Washington County Attorney’s Office proceeded with charges; and ultimately, the suspect was convicted of the crimes under the alias he had maintained since the arrest.

With Bettis convicted, a pre-sentence investigation was conducted by Utah Adult Probation and Parole and processed under the alias using the date of birth provided. The defendant was then sentenced in 5th District Court on April 21, 2020, placed on 36-months probation and released from jail.

When Bettis failed to report to Adult Probation and Parole as ordered by the court, allegedly fleeing from Utah nine days later, a warrant was issued for his arrest.

In January 2020, a man in Kennesaw, Georgia, filed an identity fraud report with the Kennesaw Police Department after he received a bill from St. George Regional Hospital.

He told Georgia authorities he had never been to Utah and believed someone was using his identity, proof of which he provided to Kennesaw police.

Later, when the Georgia man was pulled over by police in Cohutta he was informed that his Georgia driver’s license was suspended following a conviction in Utah; and since he had never been in Utah, he suspected it was related to the identity fraud report he had filed months earlier.

He then sent an email to the Washington County Attorney’s Office requesting the issue be looked into further.

That email landed on the desk of Chief Investigator Barry Golding with the Washington County Attorney’s Office who opened an investigation. Golding responded to the email and requested that the sender provide evidence of his identity, along with a copy of the police report he filed in Cohutta and a current fingerprint card.

The man filed another police report with the Kennesaw Police Department in Georgia, where officers were able to verify his identify and a copy of the report and the man’s ID were sent to Golding from the police department’s records unit.

When the investigator looked at the man’s photo ID, it was clear the Georgia man was not the same individual arrested and convicted in Utah, which is when the investigator reached out to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office for a copy of the fingerprints taken when Bettis was first booked into jail.

The prints were sent over to a certified fingerprint examiner who compared Quadri’s known fingerprints with the fingerprint card belonging to the suspect arrested in 2019 pursuit, and the examiner reported that the prints sent by Quadri did not match the fingerprints collected during the arrest in 2019.

The investigator also requested the fingerprints taken at the time of the arrest be run through the national fingerprint database for a second time, and again they did not come back to Bettis. It wasn’t until the prints were run through the Utah Criminal Justice Information System fingerprint database that they revealed the prints actually belonged to Bettis.

When Golding sent Bettis’ confirmed prints to the Bureau to be run through the national database under the suspect’s legitimate name, the analysis revealed they belonged to Bettis, which was “conclusive evidence that Bettis was the person arrested” in the August 2019 case, according to the report. It was also evidence that he used the Georgia man’s identity from the time he was booked into jail until his conviction.

The investigator also discovered that Bettis had obtained medical care at St. George Regional Hospital while in custody using the alias, which explained why the bill was sent to Quadri in Georgia.

Aubrey Shawn Bettis, 50, of St. George, booking photo taken in Washington County, Utah, March 15, 2021 | Booking photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Golding also noted it was unclear why Bettis was not identified through the fingerprint analysis the first two times they were checked, since he found that the suspect had an extensive criminal history that spanned 17 different states.

Moreover, Bettis also committed identity fraud during the booking process when he allowed his fingerprints to be submitted and falsely recorded with the Bureau under the another man’s name.

Because the false entry into the database recorded the Georgia man’s first, middle and last name and actual date of birth, Quadri’s commercial driver’s license was suspended – which Golding said was the “conviction” in Utah that Quadri was referring to when he sent the email alleging identity fraud to the Washington County Attorney’s Office.

The investigator then set out to confirm the identity of Bettis by obtaining photos of the suspect to compare with the booking photo taken at the jail following the arrest. He obtained a copy of Bettis’ Tennessee driver’s license with picture, a copy of the photo taken by the Georgia Department of Probation and Parole and a booking photo taken in Tennessee – a comparison that confirmed Bettis was the man who was arrested and convicted in Utah.

Investigators also discovered that Bettis continued to communicate with an inmate he was incarcerated with in Washington County even after his release, referring to himself as “Quadri” when he told the fellow inmate his arrest in Utah was a “fluke,” and admitted to having a criminal record in “16 states and 24 aliases,” the investigator noted in the report.

In fact, Golding recounted Bettis saying to the inmate that a judge once told him, “Mr. Quadri I’ve never seen someone with such an extensive criminal history as you.”

Golding told St. George News he pursued charges against Bettis who was believed to be driving a semi-truck “somewhere on the east coast,” but added they had no idea where the suspect had fled to, which is when he requested that a search warrant be issued for Bettis’s arrest, “so the defendant may be located and be brought to face the charges in this case.”

As the investigation was nearing the end, the case against Quardri was dismissed and he was cleared of all charges, but not before he lost his trucking job when his commercial driver’s license was suspended from the Utah case. He had to work for months to clear his name, which was an element of the case the investigator said he found particularly disturbing.

Moreover, the man was an immigrant to the United States and was just trying to make a living and provide for his family, he said, only to have his identity stolen and his livelihood lost.

Golding said when officers were taking the suspect into custody he “was laughing at them,” throughout the ordeal, an attitude the suspect has maintained throughout the case.

The warrant was issued for Bettis’s arrest in May 2020, the investigator said, and they first had to locate the suspect who by then was driving truck for another company under a different identity – an endeavor that took some time. Once they tracked him down in New Jersey, they contacted the U.S. Marshal’s Office to assist.

The suspect was ultimately arrested on June 22, 2020 by the agents in Denver, Colorado, and then extradited back to Washington County and booked into jail where, instead of facing the five charges that were originally filed following the 2019 pursuit, he faced a total of 13 charges filed by the Washington County Attorney’s Office — 10 of which are felonies.

The defendant was charged with one count of false-inconsistent material statements and producing any false identification document, both second-degree felonies, as well five counts of forgery, failure to stop at command of police, escape from official custody and identity fraud, each a third-degree felony.

“Bettis was released from official custody without lawful authorization by means of deceit and by committing identity fraud,” Golding said, which is why the escape charge was filed.

He was also charged with providing false information with the intent to be another actual person and possession of a controlled substance and paraphernalia – each a misdemeanor.

Bettis remained in jail following his arrest until his release into a substance abuse treatment facility on Feb. 2, where he remained until Sunday when he was kicked out of the residential program for aggressive behavior. A warrant was issued for his arrest on Monday and he was taken into custody later that same day.

This report is based on information provided by law enforcement and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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