Man Becomes Melrose, MA, Firefighter Using Dead Teen's Identity

May 26, 2024
When he was hired in January, the city posted his photo, welcomed their newest firefighter and thanked him for protecting Melrose.

Charlie McKenna


A man identified by prosecutors only as John Doe used the stolen identity of a teenager who died in 2002 to get a job with the Melrose Fire Department, according to federal court filings unsealed this week.

The man, whose true identity is unknown to prosecutors, used the name Henry Huang and Huang’s social security number to apply for a passport in March 2023, providing a copy of a birth certificate with that name and a driver’s license with his photo and that name, Rachel Malcolm, a special agent with the U.S. State Department Diplomatic Security Service, wrote in an affidavit filed in federal court.

Investigators found Henry Huang was born in 1989 and assigned the same social security number the man is accused of using to apply for a passport. But, investigators said, Huang died in Boston in 2002.

Biographical information on Huang’s death certificate, including information about his parents, matched the information the man is accused of submitting in his passport application, according to the filing.

The man is accused of using an identity he knew was stolen to acquire government-issued documents in Huang’s name, including driver’s licenses issued by the Registry of Motor Vehicles in 2018, 2019 and 2023, and copies of the teen’s birth certificate and social security card, the filing reads.

Using the stolen identity, officials say, the man applied for a job as a paramedic in Fall River. In the application he submitted to the city’s Emergency Medical Services department, the man provided a driver’s license in Huang’s name and gave biographical details from Huang’s life as his own. The man is accused of presenting himself as Huang when obtaining basic EMT certification in 2021 and later paramedic EMT certification in 2023.

He was then hired as a firefighter in Melrose in January 2024 under that name, according to the filing. The city at the time posted an image of the man purporting to be Huang on Facebook, writing “Melrose Firefighters have a new teammate: Meet Firefighter Henry Huang!”

“Before joining Melrose Fire, Huang responded to emergencies, hazards, and disasters alongside public safety partners as a paramedic,” the post reads. “Congratulations, Firefighter, and thank you for choosing to protect the citizens of Melrose.”

In 2018, the RMV held a fraud hearing for the man because his face matched the photos for two different licenses — the one issued to Henry Huang and another issued months earlier to Truong Nguyen. At the time of that hearing, the man is accused of claiming Huang was his true identity and the Nguyen identity was stolen.

As a result, the license issued to Huang was suspended for six months but reinstated in January 2019. The license issued to Nguyen remains suspended, according to the filing.

Investigators found a 2010 police report and Legal Permanent Resident in Nguyen’s name that revealed he had a criminal history and had been convicted of attempting to commit a crime, uttering, larceny and embezzlement.

In the filing, Malcolm wrote she thinks Nguyen is the man’s true identity, and that his legal permanent resident status was revoked. Nguyen was ordered deported in 1995 after being convicted of burglary in 1991. Nguyen was then again arrested in 2010 for embezzlement and larceny over $250 by a single scheme after he was accused of stealing more than $46,000 from the Norwell Firefighters Union while working as a union officer.

The man was arrested on Thursday and made an initial appearance in federal court in Boston the same day, according to court records. The result of his arraignment was not immediately clear.

Melrose Mayor Jen Grigoraitis said she was notified the man, who she described as a Melrose Fire Department employee, had been arrested on Thursday.

“The employee was placed on leave as soon as the City was notified of the arrest,” she said in a statement.

The city does not comment on personnel matters, Grigoraitis said.

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