‘Best vacation ever’ turns into mistaken-identity nightmare

Deanna Wheeler

For days, Bryan Lampe sat in a correction facility going over every possible scenario that could have landed him there.

The medical equipment sales representative from St. Louis won a trip to Spain through the company for which he works. He boarded his flight Dec. 28. On Friday, Jan. 4, he landed in Newark, N.J., Liberty Airport from what he said was the “best vacation ever.”

Then, in front of the owner of the company, colleagues and their wives, officials with the Transportation Security Administration led him away. He was detained by Port Authority Police and later transferred to Essex County Jail in New Jersey.

It was a case of mistaken identity. One letter separated Bryan Lampe, the man arrested and sitting in jail, from Bryon Lampe, the man who rented a laser level from A-B Rental and Sales in Camden County, Mo., in 2006 and never returned it.

But it took several days before Bryan Lampe was permitted to return home, and he is telling his story in the hope that similar mistakes are avoided.

Lampe said that after being detained at the airport, he was handcuffed to a table, unaware of why he was missing his connecting flight to St. Louis.

He said Port Authority Police came and told him why he was being detained - a Class C Felony for failure to return rental property was filed in Camden County, Mo.

Lampe racked his brain but nothing came up. The news got worse. Port Authority was transporting him to Essex County Jail in New Jersey.

Humiliating, disgusting and awful wouldn’t even begin to describe processing, he said. By 3 a.m., he had a public shower and changed into an orange jumpsuit. He was also told his bond  – $1,750, which he assumed was 10 percent of the rented property, possibly a car. He still didn’t know the specifics.

Because the bond was set in Camden County, Lampe would have to wait until that Monday when the courts opened to make bail.

Lampe said that even after he was moved to a two-man cell, he didn’t sleep. He spent his time trying to figure out what he didn’t return that would have caused a warrant for his arrest. He ran through situations of identity theft. He listed off his top favorite movies, books, games and songs, anything that would pass a little bit of time.

Lampe spent the time out of his cell on the phone with his mom. She was waiting for news on her son and working with Osage Beach, Mo., attorney Thomas Loraine.

Sunday night, Loraine talked with Aaron Koeppen, the Camden County assistant prosecuting attorney, and arranged for the charges to be dropped against Lampe in exchange for him turning himself in by the following Friday.

As promised, that Monday the charges were dropped. But as Lampe waited in New Jersey for the paperwork to make its way through, an error was found. It wasn’t until the afternoon of Tuesday, Jan. 8, that Bryan Lampe was released.

Lampe said he believes his arrest and imprisonment were just a case of bad luck. But he said he hasn’t heard anything in the form of an apology from any of the police departments or the prosecutor’s office, which has him the most upset.

Had he been stopped by police, even for rolling through a stop sign, the problem could have cleared itself earlier, as Bryan T. Lampe and Bryon J. Lampe each list different birthdays, social security numbers and cities of residence.

How the warrant information got turned around and landed the wrong man in jail remains a mystery.

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