Dallas Johnson, 30, lost his wallet in 2004, but he didn't report it to the police right away.
Two years later, when Johnson was starting a new job requiring a record check, he realized he was in trouble.
"During this one shift I got called into the airport manager," said Johnson. "He sat me down and said, 'Can you explain your criminal record?' And I go, 'What?'"
As it turned out, someone had adopted Johnson's identity, and he'd been busy on a petty crime spree across the country.
Eventually, the bogus Dallas Johnson was caught in Nova Scotia after stealing money and CDs from a girlfriend.
A warrant has been issued after he failed to show for court.
But the arrest didn't end the nightmare for Johnson, who has no actual criminal record.
Over the years he's had to convince new employers and border officials he wasn't a criminal.
Wife could not get Canadian citizenship
He applied for but could not obtain a firearms licence or Canadian citizenship for his United States-born wife.
He also fought thousands of dollars in cell phone charges and traffic stops were anything but routine.
"They come to me and say, 'Do you realize you have a warrant out for your arrest in Cape Breton,'" Johnson said.
For years Johnson fruitlessly told his story to police, politicians, government and spent hundreds of dollars on lawyers.
He had created a thick file showing he was attending Columbia Bible College in British Columbia at the time criminal charges were being laid on the other side of the country.
He sent his fingerprints and photos to Nova Scotia authorities, only to find out none were taken from the suspect.
"I just couldn't believe that there was no easy resolution to this problem," said Johnson. "I just thought it's identity theft — someone can easily fix that or at least somebody should know how to fix that."
RCMP officer took on case
After Johnson told his story to CBC News in January 2011, it caught the attention of an RCMP investigator in the Commercial Crimes Section.
Cpl. Grant Feschuk took on Johnson's case, but it was anything but easy.
Feshcuk spent more than 100 hours over 1½ years working with police partners across the country to verify that Johnson's identity had been stolen.
"It can be a lifetime of hassle, and it's not easy to clear your name, " said Feschuk.
Finally in September, after reviewing the investigation, Nova Scotia authorities withdrew the charges.
"I was absolutely relieved," said Johnson, "I actually fist pumped it a couple of times when I found out.
"It was the nicest news I've heard in eight years."
His advice to others now is carry minimal ID in your wallet, and if it goes missing, report it to police immediately.