A Tennessee man who deserted the US Navy 45 years ago has been jailed after being identified while receiving his COVID-19 vaccine.
Jerry Leon Blankenship, 65, had been living under another identity after deserting the Navy in 1977.
He remained in hiding until receiving his COVID jab at a pharmacy in 2021.
Court documents said Blankenship had “been dishonest about his name with almost everyone, including his girlfriend of thirty years” and the mother of his three children.
The US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee said in a statement on 22nd March: “On March 21, 2022, Jerry Leon Blankenship, 65, currently of Newport, Tennessee, was sentenced to 25 months in prison by the Honorable J. Ronnie Greer, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Greeneville.
The statement said that “Blankenship agreed to plead guilty to an indictment charging him with one count of fraud involving a Social Security number” as well as “one count of aggravated identity theft”.
After his release from prison, Blankenship will be on supervised release for three years.
The statement continued: “According to filed court documents, in 1976, Blankenship enlisted in the United States Navy. The following year, after he completed basic training, he deserted, with a goal of avoiding future military service.
“Blankenship then assumed the name and identity of another individual. By doing so, Blankenship established a new life under the stolen name in Newport, Tennessee.
“According to court records, Blankenship had “been dishonest about his name with almost everyone, including his girlfriend of thirty years” and the mother of his three children.
“Since 2005, Blankenship had obtained three fraudulent Tennessee driver’s licenses in the victim’s name. Blankenship also used the victim’s name in a business that he and his girlfriend ran in Newport, Tennessee.
“Authorities discovered Blankenship’s true identity after he obtained a COVID-19 vaccination at a Newport pharmacy. The real victim was notified of the vaccination that the real victim had not received.
“Store surveillance video showed Blankenship was the person who had obtained the vaccination under the victim’s name.”
The statement added that Blankenship will also face a military tribunal for his desertion.
The US Attorney’s Office said: “The criminal indictment was the result of an investigation led by the Criminal Investigative Division of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Sergeant James Knipper.
“Assistant United States Attorney Mac D. Heavener, III represented the United States.”