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GRAND COULEE — A popular Coulee Dam teacher is facing charges of forgery and identity theft.

Guillermo Guzman, 43, was arrested recently by Coulee Dam police officers and a Border Patrol agent.

It happened after a relative with a similar name was denied Social Security benefits because the agency’s records showed he was employed as a Coulee Dam teacher, according to a police report. The relative reportedly said Guzman stayed with him for a short period in 1995 and that he believes Guzman stole his Social Security information.

Police discovered that Guzman, who is from Mexico, appeared to have entered the U.S. illegally. He could face deportation if convicted.

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During an interview with police, Guzman allegedly said he had used someone else’s Social Security number to gain an education and employment in the U.S., according to the police report.

Detective Joseph Lauseng spoke with an employee of the payroll department, who told Lauseng she attempted to verify Guzman’s Social Security number and the verification failed because the Social Security number and date of birth did not match, according to reports.

Guzman is on paid administrative leave, according to Grand Coulee Dam School District Superintendent Dennis Carlson. He added that Guzman was a good teacher who had raised the school’s expectations for performance and behavior.

“He was the type of teacher that held kids to pretty high standards in Spanish,” Carlson said. “He was a hard worker. He was one that put in a lot of time before and after school and volunteered to do extra duties when he felt his time and efforts would be to good use.”

Guzman was named Lake Roosevelt High School teacher of the month in May last year.

Carlson said Guzman, who was hired as a Spanish teacher by the district in 2008, passed both the Washington State Patrol’s background check and the FBI’s fingerprint check. Carlson said there was never any suspicion about his immigration status.

Guzman holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Washington and obtained a teaching certificate.

If convicted, Guzman could face a maximum of five years in prison.

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