Mark Gregory Goddard and his family blocked from a trip to Hawaii because of mistaken identity. Feb. 3, 2011.(CTV)
Date: Thursday Feb. 3, 2011 4:04 PM PT
A North Vancouver man is fuming after American border guards turned him away from the United States, claiming he was another man with a long criminal record and presenting him with what they say is his own signed confession.
Mark Gregory Goddard obtained proof of his innocence and his identity from the North Vancouver RCMP -- but says U.S. customs officials ignored the Mounties and are still keeping him from crossing the border. "I think it's ridiculous," Goddard told CTV News, adding that he believes the confession is a fabrication. "I've done nothing wrong." A U.S. customs spokesman refused to be interviewed on camera, but did say that the American Department of Homeland Security is aware of a complaint in Goddard's case that was filed in October.
Customs wouldn't respond to any questions about the so-called confession, in which Goddard appears to admit to being convicted of a number of crimes in Canada. Admitting to a criminal record could bar someone from entering the United States. Goddard's nightmare began in June when Goddard and his family tried to take off for a vacation in Hawaii from Vancouver International Airport. But Goddard says that he was singled out at the customs line-up by a U.S. customs inspector.
"He took me into a closed room without my wife and children and proceeded to tell me I have a criminal record," said Goddard. Officials accused him of being Mark Alan Goddard, an Ontario man with a similar name and age, and a lengthy criminal record. The two men don't, however, share a middle name, and Mark Gregory Goddard was turned back. "When he came back, he looked dumbfounded," said his wife Whitney Goddard. "I said, ‘What happened?' and he didn't know."
"My wife was crying her eyes out -- my kids were crying their eyes out," Goddard recalled. "We had saved for this trip for over a year and we were on our way to a great vacation. It felt awful." Goddard turned to the North Vancouver RCMP for help. Officers compared the computer records of the two people, and determined that Mark Gregory Goddard and Mark Alan Goddard are two distinct individuals.
"We have fingerprint evidence, which is the landmark manner in which people are identified," said Cpl. Peter Devries. "It's the type of evidence that would stand up in a court of law." RCMP also confirmed that Mark Gregory Goddard doesn't have a criminal record. But when Goddard tried to enter the U.S. again, he says border officials ignored the RCMP letter. Instead they showed him another document: a four-page interview transcript in which a man with Mark Gregory Goddard's information admits to being Mark Alan Goddard, and also admits to being convicted of several crimes.
When CTV News examined the document, it was riddled with grammatical errors, and contained several factual errors, including the country in which Mark Gregory Goddard was born. Goddard also pointed to his signature, which appears to be different from the signature on the document. He also insists the interrogation never happened. "That interview would have taken three hours to do. I was at the airport for less than 10 minutes. It's completely, 100-per-cent false," said Goddard.
Border guards eventually let him visit Hawaii later on a compassionate waiver. But Goddard says they told him if he wanted to enter the United States ever again, he would need to fill out a form in which he admits to these crimes again. The U.S. customs official named as the customs inspector on the so-called confession is Antonio Cintron. U.S. customs wouldn't say anything about discipline records for Cintron and refused to release his discipline record after a freedom of information request.
CTV News has learned that Cintron no longer works in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection port at the Vancouver Airport, and is now stationed at Salt Lake City. However, phone calls to U.S. customs were not returned, and no one answered the door at Cintron's house in Saratoga Springs, Utah. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association says American Authorities can't use Canadian justice system records against a Canadian citizen -- and then ignore Canadian police records that exonerate him.
"It's troubling," said Micheal Vonn of the BCCLA. "If you're not going to take the word of the RCMP on this, where are you planning to go?" Goddard says he has no idea why he's in this situation. He has been in touch with his MP as well and is hoping for some resolution. But this came as such a surprise to him he thinks other Canadians should be wary. "We're a good, Canadian family," said Goddard. "This could happen to anyone."
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Jon Woodward and Mi-Jung Le