ATHENS, Ga. -- An Athens man says he's sitting in jail for a crime he couldn't have committed: he was 2200 miles away, working at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company in San Francisco.
James Michael Riley is fighting extradition to Louisiana where he's wanted for fraud committed in 2008. His attorney, Miguel Debon, tells 11Alive's Valerie Hoff he can prove his client was living in San Francisco at the time. He was working at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company from 2008 to 2012. His attorney provided W-2's to 11Alive News for 2008 and 2009. His roommates and then-girlfriend (now wife) have given sworn statements he was with them during those years, and couldn't possibly have committed the New Orleans crime. They've provided 11Alive with a series of photos they say were taken in San Francisco during that same time period.
Riley is accused of defrauding an 80-year-old woman during Hurricane Katrina. He's accused of asking her for $76,000 to rebuild her home, then disappearing before the work was done.
Riley believes he's been confused with someone else named James Riley. He goes by his middle name, Michael. His attorneys say simple searches uncover 1,000 exact name matches and 39,000 possible matches.
Riley received a letter in California saying he had to be in court, but received it two days after the court date (court documents show the stamped and dated delivery). He had no idea why he was being summoned to court. Riley says he initiated "numerous calls to the authorities" telling them it was an identification error.
He hired an attorney in Louisiana to quash the warrant, but was arrested on December 15th after moving to Athens,Georgia. Attorneys fighting the extradition tell 11Alive News they don't even know the exact charges against their client and "the jail would not inform us of his next court date for extradition".
In a petition for Habeas Corpus, Riley's attorneys call his imprisonment unlawful. They say the charges were filed "without a shred of evidence as to proper identity of the perpetrator connected to the alleged crime". A hearing is scheduled in Athens on Jan. 29.
"This whole thing has just been horrible," Brandy Poston, James Riley's wife, said. "Going to visit my husband in jail on Christmas was not at all how I planned to spend my holidays."
After her husband has spent nearly a month behind bars, Brandy Poston said she's losing patience.
"I'm beyond angry," she said. "I'm heartbroken, I had more faith our system .This whole system is terrifying."
11Alive's Valerie Hoff reached out to Orleans Parish Assistant District Attorney Sam Crichton, who is named in court documents as the prosecuting attorney. Her phone calls and emails have not yet received a response.