Ava Virginia Misseldine, 49, used a fake identity in the name of Brie Bourgeois for nearly two decades and obtained a Social Security number, passport, secured jobs and admission to Ohio State University, according to the US Attorney’s Office.
She was arrested in Utah on Thursday and charged with passport fraud, Social Security number fraud, aggravated identity theft and fraud in connection with an emergency.
Authorities say Ms Misseldine was released from prison for fraud in 2000.
Three years later, she allegedly stole the dead infant’s identity and used it to lead a double life for years.
“She provided a certain birth date in 1979 and provided the name of Bourgeois’s parents,” the complaint alleges.
“This was a fraud; the real Brie Bourgeois (with the same date of birth and parents) died as an infant in 1979 and is buried in Columbus.”
Under her real name, she ran an acclaimed cupcake store Koko Tea Salon & Bakery in Columbus, Ohio, which was once featured on the Food Network.
Using the Brie Bourgeois identity she was allegedly employed under her fake name as a flight attendant for JetSelect and even obtained a student’s pilot license.
Ms Misseldine used both identities to secure about $1.5m in 16 fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program loans in 2020, court documents allege.
She used the money to purchase a home near Zion National Park for $647,000, and a second in Michigan for $327,000, documents show.
Ms Misseldine claimed to come from Hawaii and has been involved in cancer research. In a Twitter bio she describes herself as a “rehabilitated chemical engineer”.
But relative Russell Misseldine told The Daily Beast that none of that was true.
When Ms Misseldine first applied for a Social Security under the assumed identity in 2003, she allegedly told staff that she had been “homeschooled her entire life with no job”.
Four years later she obtained a replacement driver’s license, the student pilot license, and a US passport under her new identity.
In her passport application she claimed to need the passport to fly throughout the Middle East in her capacity as a flight attendant, but ultimately didn’t use the document to travel.
It was that passport that raised red flags, and an investigation was launched after she applied for a replacement in 2021, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio says.
Mr Misseldine was arrested in Utah on Thursday and will be taken to Ohio to answer the charges. She faces up to 30 years in prison.