Nick Budnick and Cindy Powers / The Bulletin
The man Central Oregon liquor licensees know as Jason Evers may have stolen the identity of a boy killed in Ohio 28 years ago, explaining why the longtime state employee is behind bars in Idaho.
Few details about the criminal case against the former Bend-based regional manager of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission claiming to be Evers were released Friday. But Portland-based Oregon U.S. Assistant Attorney Lance Caldwell did say the man has been charged in federal court with providing false information on a passport application.
Not even authorities know his true name.
An Ohio man believes, based on a phone call from a federal investigator, that the man claiming to be Jason Evers apparently assumed the identity of the Ohio man's murdered son.
“He's an impostor,” said Bob Evers, of Cincinnati, in a phone interview.
Evers' son, Jason, was kidnapped and murdered at the age of 3, and his family is now fighting to keep the child's killer behind bars.
Bob Evers said he got the call from a federal agent about an investigation of a 31-year-old Oregon state employee using the name Jason Evers.
The investigator said the individual claimed to have the same date of birth as Bob Evers' son — Jan. 6, 1979.
“We thought it was some kind of a hoax,” Bob Evers said.
The agent told Bob and his daughter, Amy, to search Google for their son's name and the abbreviation OLCC, calling the state employee a “rogue operator,” Bob recalls.
Still, so suspicious were they of the claim that they secured the help of an FBI agent to confirm the caller's identity.
The criminal case
The charge against the man claiming to be Evers, which does not specify what false information he allegedly provided, was filed in Oregon on Monday, said Caldwell, the head of the Oregon U.S. Attorney's fraud unit.
The document lists the defendant as “John Doe, aka Jason Evers.”
U.S. marshals arrested Evers in Idaho on Tuesday, and he was booked into the Ada County Jail in Boise, where he is being held without bail.
“I can confirm that he is at the Ada County Jail, and we have a person arrested under that name by the U.S. Marshal Service,” District of Idaho Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Kevin M. Platts said Friday morning.
When asked if any other names could be associated with the individual, Platts responded: “Not that we know of.”
The case was investigated by the Diplomatic Security Service, a branch of the U.S. Department of State that uses criminal investigators to pursue visa fraud and passport violations.
Noel Clay, a Department of State spokesman in Washington, D.C., said neither he nor investigators could comment on the case, calling it “an ongoing investigation.”
Interviews with the Bob Evers family as well as government officials frame a bizarre tale. The man known as Jason Evers has spent most of a decade using the identity, if not more. Bob Evers said he was informed that the alleged perpetrator had even obtained a copy of his dead son's birth certificate.
“That's what I'm trying to figure out here, is how he got ahold of my son's information,” Bob Evers said.
Another unanswered question is how he was hired by the OLCC, which routinely conducts background checks on liquor license applicants, club owners, bartenders and other servers of alcohol. He was hired in 2002, agency officials said.
Tom Erwin, an OLCC spokesman, said Evers would have gone through the standard background check new OLCC employees receive, including fingerprinting.
A third unanswered question is how the OLCC manager survived a months-long investigation by the Oregon Department of Justice last year — without his true identity being revealed.
The agency's executive director, Steve Pharo, declined to discuss the case against Evers until he had more facts.
“The information I got leads us to believe it has nothing to do with the OLCC or its activities,” Pharo said. “I guess that'll be revealed at the arraignment.”
Asked if the case has sparked any concerns about the agency's employment screening, Pharo said that until he knows the details of the case, “I don't know how much of a bearing it would have on our screening.” But, he added, “It would concern me if we found out that any employee is not who he or she says they are.”
He said the agency placed “Evers” on administrative leave Thursday after he'd failed to show up for work the day before. Pharo said Evers was placed on leave for not showing up to work, rather than due to the pending investigation.
A history of questions
Evers' employment history with the OLCC has, at times, been clouded by questions about his credibility.
His troubles in Central Oregon appear to have begun in 2004, when he was working as an investigator out of the Bend office.
Evers ticketed Bend licensee Corey's Bar&Grill on Bond Street for serving a visibly intoxicated person. His report stated the patron fell off a barstool, stumbled through the bar, spilled his drink and fell asleep.
A surveillance video taken inside the bar that night showed the patron but not the behaviors Evers described. After reviewing the tape, the OLCC's then-director, Teresa Kaiser, dismissed the case against Corey's.
“The signs of swaying when (the man) walked, falling off the stool and leaning on the bar for support, falling asleep or unable to sit up straight are contradicted by the video,” Kaiser wrote in the dismissal order.
The following year, Evers accused the owners of JC's Bar&Grill in Bend of getting into a physical altercation with a female agent and interfering with an OLCC investigation.
Again, surveillance tapes from the bar were not consistent with Evers' version of events and the case was dismissed.
In 2006, the OLCC hired an independent investigator to look into Evers' actions in the Corey's and JC's cases. She found, among other things, that the videotapes in both cases contradicted both Evers' written reports and his testimony at an administrative hearing.
Evers was later promoted from an inspector to regional manager over a territory that includes Crook, Deschutes, Jefferson and Wheeler counties.
After a May 2009 article detailing questions about his credibility ran in The Bulletin, a groundswell of local OLCC licensees complained to elected officials about Evers' enforcement tactics.
A month later, Bend City Councilor Jodie Barram took up the business owners' cause and spoke out against Evers at an OLCC town hall meeting held in Bend.
Licensees who attended called Evers “a liar” and accused his enforcement agents of arbitrarily applying liquor regulations and retaliating against licensees who complain.
At the time, OLCC officials said they did not believe enforcement practices in the region were a problem.
Bend officials teamed up with Deschutes County commissioners in sending a letter to Gov. Ted Kulongoski and asking his office to intervene.
After a closed-door meeting with Kulongoski in August, Pharo, the OLCC official, asked the Oregon Department of Justice to conduct an official investigation.
The Oregon DOJ report, issued in December, found Evers and his staffers had exceeded their authority or been overly punitive in nearly a dozen investigations. The report did not cover complaints made before Evers' promotion to regional manager, which include the Corey's and JC's cases.
The agency announced in January that Evers requested a transfer to the OLCC's Nyssa office and that he would focus on licensing issues. Evers worked at the office as an enforcement agent earlier in his career.
The next step
Evers will remain in custody at the Ada County Jail until his initial court appearance, said Oregon Assistant U.S. Attorney Caldwell.
A court date had not been set as of Friday afternoon, but Caldwell said Evers will likely appear before a Federal Magistrate in Boise next week.
“Typically the issue is whether he will agree to be transferred back to Oregon,” Caldwell said. “If he does not agree, the government has the burden of proving his identity.”
While that might seem a challenge in this case, Caldwell explained prosecutors do not need to prove Evers' actual identity.
“All we have to prove is that he is the person that we had sought to charge,” Caldwell said.
If convicted of providing false information on a passport application, Evers faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine.