San Diego

District Attorney's Office Identified the Wrong Man: How That Mistake Could Ruin His Life Forever

Angel Galvan went to jail, was fingerprinted and arraigned in court after the San Diego County District Attorney filed felony charges against him. Then, all charges against him were suddenly dropped. But he was left with the arrest record.

Angel Galvan, 25, lives with his girlfriend and toddler son in Los Angeles, in the San Fernando Valley. He is a manager at the Sprint Store in Panorama City and was saving up to buy a house for his family.

So you can imagine his shock last July when he received a letter from the San Diego County District Attorney's office saying he was charged with a felony in San Diego; a city he had never even visited in his entire life.

“To this day it gets me,” Galvan said, emotionally recalling the incident. “This could happen to anybody.”

It all started when Galvan received a letter from the District Attorney’s office.

To read the letter, click here

Prosecutors said Galvan was charged with "Grand Theft of Personal Property,” stemming from a March 2019 theft from GoWireless, a Verizon retailer that sells smartphones. The crime allegedly took place in San Diego, but Galvan said he was never in the area.

Galvan had worked for GoWireless but only for two months in 2017 at a location in Santa Clarita, in Los Angeles County.

He didn't know what to do, so he hired an attorney.

“You're gonna have to go to the San Diego County Jail and do a book and release,” Galvan said his attorney told him. “I said ‘What's that?’”

Galvan soon found out. A few weeks later he went to his court arraignment, and then to the San Diego County Jail. There, he was fingerprinted, photographed, forced to give a DNA sample, and then released after five hours.

But Galvan knew he was innocent.

Galvan’s attorney sent documentation to the District Attorney’s office showing proof of where he was on the day of the alleged crime. 

Five days later, the D.A. acknowledged the mistake in an email to Galvan’s attorney stating in part, "sorry for the mix-up."

It turns out another individual with the name "Angel Galvan" also worked at GoWireless. And that was the man authorities wanted.

A portion of the letter the District Attorney's office sent Angel Galvan.

“I feel like if the D.A. wants to press charges on somebody I would at least have the investigating attorney call me and say, ‘Hey I need to talk to you about this case,’ or at least verify that they're getting the right person,” Galvan said. “Nobody ever called me.”

Neither the D.A.'s office or GoWireless would comment on the incident to NBC 7 Investigates.

Galvan’s attorney filed a claim with the District Attorney’s Office, but the county rejected it two weeks later.

Galvan is now planning to file a lawsuit against the District Attorney’s Office.

Although Galvan is glad the D.A. admitted fault, he still has an arrest and court record.

Alex Ozols, Galvan’s civil attorney, said his case is officially listed as "dismissed" - but with no explanation that he was misidentified.

“Even if he has the arrest record taken off there's still a record of this case and there's still his fingerprints, his DNA and his photo in the police database,” Ozols said, adding that clearing Galvan’s record completely will be extremely difficult.

Ozols said it’s a process that involves local and federal law enforcement and the Department of Justice. Plus, Galvan would need the help of an attorney, which would add to his legal bill.

“He's been fingerprinted, he had his mugshot taken,” Ozols said. “It's very, very hard to get out of a federal database. It's not something that we can do as local attorneys, it's something that we would need local and federal law enforcement to be involved with.”

Ozols also sent a letter and is speaking with representatives from GoWireless. He is asking the company to compensate Galvan $3,800 for lawyer’s fees and another $2,500 Ozols says Galvan will likely have to spend to pay a lawyer to help clear his record.

Galvan, in the meantime, is also worried this could hurt his career prospects in the future.

“I feel like if I lose a career opportunity because of this like I'm going to get even more frustrated in the future. I really don't want this to happen to anybody else. I want them to be able to realize that this can happen to anybody.”

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