A Twisted Tale

A well-known erotic performer is now an international fugitive. A look into who’s getting caught up in the identity theft crackdown.

That affidavit refers to Jade using her legal name as well as Catherine Izuo, Jadeblue Eclipse, and Jadeblue Lotos.

Jade had just moved into a new apartment when she got a strong feeling that somebody was looking for her, so she decided to stay with a friend. That's when she got the voice mail. The State Department wanted to speak to her immediately. She picked the meeting at a cafe in Whole Foods Market on California Street because it was "the funniest place" she could think of for a meeting with federal agents.

Jade was handcuffed and taken in. She remembers spending the night in a holding cell, lying on a metal bench under glaring bright lights. When she went to court, she pled guilty to charges of possession of a false United States identification document, a misdemeanor. Jade posted bail, and was placed on pretrial release before her Jan. 11 sentencing hearing.

Michael Manning
MARY SPICUZZA

It could have been worse. If she hadn't pled guilty, she could have faced more serious charges. Another dancer caught in January 2006 with a U.S. passport issued in the name of a deceased American told authorities that she paid Jade $12,500 to help her get a birth certificate and California identification card. Jade even drove her to the Department of Motor Vehicles and showed her how to apply for a passport, according to court documents. Special Agent Dubsick says the investigation uncovered "additional sales of birth certificates which were not charged or mentioned in court records." She offers no apologies for committing the crime. Jade says she did what she needed to do to get by, that using the Social Security number of a deceased child is more ethical than, say, getting married simply in order to stay in the country.

Jade says she tried not to "disturb anyone or anything" in the process. "I tried my best to contribute to this society as best I could and not be anybody's problem," she said. "You know, I made sure that nobody had to take care of me. Not your tax money, not anybody's."

The Diplomatic Security Service and Department of Homeland Security feel differently.

"Passport fraud and visa fraud potentially threaten the national security of the United States," Ambassador Richard J. Griffin, assistant secretary for Diplomatic Security, said in a December press release. "The U.S. passport and visa are two of the most coveted travel documents in the world, and those who have acquired passports and visas fraudulently could perpetrate further illegal acts. These crimes make the United States more vulnerable to terrorism, plain and simple."

And Thomas K. Depenbrock, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, San Francisco Field Office, says that using a dead child's name is "morally repugnant," and a desecration of someone's identity, one that victimizes the family of the deceased.

Immigration officials also recently announced a crackdown on illegal immigrants who use false or stolen Social Security numbers to get jobs. For example, the December sweep at Swift meat-packing plants netted about 1,300 immigrants accused of identity theft and immigration violations.

Depenbrock links stopping identity theft to controlling the country's borders and protecting the integrity of the U.S. passport.

But some of those caught in the passport fraud net seem to pose a far greater threat than Jade. For example, the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, Roy Belfast Jr. (aka Charles "Chuckie" McArthur Emmanuel), was arrested last year after he gave a false name for his father on his passport application. But Belfast, a U.S. citizen, was also wanted on torture charges stemming from his work leading a violent paramilitary unit for his father's government.

Those who know Jade say it's ridiculous that she's being lumped in with such notorious criminals. "She was just sort of dropped off here, working under the table," said Paul Stoll, owner of Body Manipulations piercing, branding, and scarification parlor and producer of Flying Tiger Circus. And he wonders how many millions of dollars are being spent on going after people like her rather than, for example, terrorists. "Go find something better to do," Stoll said of the Jade bust.

When "Unkle" Paul Nathan answered the door at his house and walked back to his computer to show a video of Jade's last live contortion performance, he still seemed shocked over her arrest. He's known Jade for about 15 years, since he met her at an underground lesbian cabaret show where she performed by placing gold leaf on her body. Nathan watched her grow as an artist, from a milk bath she did at the Exotic Erotic ball a decade ago to her work as a contortionist.

Nathan looked sad and worried as he watched Jade's on-screen show, recorded at the 2005 Dark Kabaret. In it she looked more mature and moved slowly, no longer performing in the nude, raising herself into a handstand before twisting into the splits as the live band played along to her performance.

Nathan admitted that his longtime friend made a mistake by obtaining an illegal identity, but said he can't believe that the former "cover girl" of the San Francisco performance art scene has had her life ripped out from under her. He described her as a loving, caring, strong woman who's more American than she is Japanese. He even offered to marry her — the only time he's proposed to anybody — to help her stay in the country. But she said her legal problems were too serious.

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