Criminals allowed to change their names

by: Shae Rozzi Updated:

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TULSA, Okla. - FOX23 investigated criminals being able to change their names and what's being done to stop them to help keep you safe.

FOX23 was shocked to find a man named Bryan Sebesta, who was convicted of impersonating a Broken Arrow police officer, was able to change his name.
 
Turns out police were just as surprised.

In April, Sebesta told FOX23’s Shae Rozzi his name was Bryan Murphy and that he made the trip from the Tulsa area to Vilonia, Arkansas, with his search-and-rescue dog to help look for tornado victims.

“We got the call from a private source of mine and they told me they were running low on K-9 units and they needed a K-9 unit bad,” said he at the time.

A viewer tipped off FOX23 to Murphy's real name and his criminal past.

FOX23 found the court documents showing the switch from Sebesta to Murphy approved earlier this year despite previous convictions.

FOX23 asked Broken Arrow police if they knew he had changed his name.

“That was the first I had heard about it,” said Cpl. Leon Calhoun.

Calhoun said he wasn't aware criminals could legally change their names, and he called it a serious threat.

“This person may be a danger to us and we don't know if they have a previous history. A lot of times it's not going to be flagged that they're also known as their previous name,” he said.

Rozzi went to the Tulsa County Courthouse to find out how easy it is to change your name.

She found that in the Tulsa County Law Library, it costs $1 for a change-of-name packet and there's no criminal background check.

Approval comes after applicants explain to a judge why they want their name changed and pay additional fees.

Tulsa County Court Clerk Sally Howe Smith told FOX23 that someone cannot change their name to commit fraud, but there's no way to prove they're being honest.

“If they were going to use it for an unlawful purpose, we wouldn't have any idea and the court would not know,” said Smith.

You do have to provide your Social Security number, but Smith told FOX23 there is no background check done with that information- she said nothing like that is required.

Right now it's legal even for sex offenders to change their names.

A convicted sex offender from Las Vegas changed his name three times and landed a job in Oklahoma as a school bus driver in Lawton.

His background check eventually revealed the name change and the conviction of lewd acts with a child, something police say would've been caught sooner if he was not able to change his name.

Oklahoma City Sen. Kyle Loveless authored a bill that will become law in November prohibiting sex offenders from changing their names.

FOX23 contacted the senator to see if he would consider amending the bill to prohibit other convicted felons from being able to change their name.

He emailed back, calling it an interesting idea:

“I can author follow up legislation next year to address it, and I in the interim will have my legal staff look into what if anything can or should be done."

FOX23 wanted to find out why Sebesta changed his name to Murphy, so we stopped by his last known address in Broken Arrow.

We spotted his dogs through the window and a note on the door evicting him for not paying his rent.

Once he was picked up after our story in Arkansas for violating his parole, a judge ordered him not to respond to any other emergencies.
 
Sebesta returned FOX23’s call but he did not want to go on camera.

He claims the accusations surrounding the impersonation case in Broken Arrow were all a miscommunication.
 
He did admit he changed his name because of his criminal past so he could get a job.