Sterling woman is not a crook: Case of mistaken identity resolved with authorities

Posted: Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Kathleen Haley wants everyone to know that she's not a suspect in an illegal drug ring anymore.

Photo By Larry Campbell
Photo By Larry Campbell
Kathleen Haley is pictured in her home in Sterling Monday. A case of mistaken identity in which she was implicated in a drug trafficking ring has been resolved.

Truth is, she never was. But in a worst nightmare identity mix-up, the Sterling resident and businesswoman found her name among more than two dozen folks in Alaska and Nevada named in a prescription drug trafficking ring that federal authorities accused last month.

Last Friday a U.S. magistrate signed an order that erased Haley's name from a criminal complaint issued Oct. 29 by the U.S. Attorney's office in Nevada. The original complaint listed Kathleen Haley as an alias for another woman charged in the complaint, Cathleen Eugenia Renney.

"I am so glad to know this is finally over," Haley said Monday, at her home in Sterling. "It's been pretty crazy."

Haley's identity crisis began Nov. 5 with a press release from federal authorities naming 27 people in Alaska and Nevada charged with distribution of more than 6,000 tablets of oxycodone and laundering of more than $1.2 million. Oxycodone is a prescription narcotic pain reliever similar to morphine.

Among the names on the press release was Renney, and written right after her name: "referred to in the complaint as Kathleen Haley, 54, Sterling, Alaska."

Soon after the news broke that day, Haley got a call from her adopted daughter.

"She said she'd heard from a friend, 'Your mother's name is all over the news,'" Haley said. "The first thing I did was laugh."

Then she got another call, from a friend offering bail, "and laughing her head off."

Even Haley's brother in Homer was hysterical.

"Well, it's just that, everyone who knows me knew if couldn't happen. That couldn't be me."

Haley is a lifelong Peninsula resident, former teacher, a grandmother and part owner of Great Alaska Adventure Lodge, in Sterling.

According to U.S. Attorney Dan Bogden, in Las Vegas, Haley's name got sucked into their complaint because of a simple error in identification.

Indeed, Haley's name used to be Renney. She was married to Gordon Renney from 1972 to 1982 and didn't change her name until she married John Haley in 1989. Some older records still show her as Kathleen A. Renney.

But the error began to reveal itself as soon as law enforcement officers began rounding up the suspects, Bodgen said. Cathleen Eugenia Renney's drivers license revealed she wasn't Kathleen A. Haley after all. Cathleen Renney is 54 years old. Kathleen Haley is 61.

"As soon as we realized we had a mistake, we set about fixing it," Bogden said.

That was about the same time Haley started calling authorities in Las Vegas. The suspicions were starting to seep into her personal and business relationships. She even resorted to using her Facebook account to alert friends and family.

"I could understand that a mistake was made, but this was getting all over," Haley said. "I mean, I've substitute taught in school here, I have a business here. I needed to get this straightened out."

Haley started an e-mail communication with another U.S. Attorney in Las Vegas who assured her all would be made right.

"Sure, I could've been fearful and angry and started suing everyone," Haley said. "But I decided I wasn't going to do that. I didn't want to immediately assume people were incompetent. I wanted to give everybody the benefit of the doubt.

"So, I said to myself: 'Lord, I command this fear to go, and show me what to do.'"

So, with persistence tempered with patience, Haley kept in touch with authorities by e-mail, and they did the same with her. On Friday, a magistrate's signature ended the mistaken identity.

And the order is worded exactly as she wanted: "The true Ms. Haley is not a subject of this investigation and has not been accused of criminal conduct."

"Mrs. Haley has been persistent, but she's been extremely understanding," Bogden said. "We appreciate that."

And Haley thinks her brief brush with the law has proven something.

"I had the opportunity to live what I believe, and it worked out," she said. "And you know, this proves that not all government is evil, or they're unthinking, unfeeling and inhuman.

"Sometimes people just make mistakes."

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