Former tennis player James Blake suffered a case of mistaken identity a few months ago when he was tackled and arrested in New York, and now the same thing has happened to former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin after he says he was handcuffed and detained at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Tuesday.
Franklin was returning home from Singapore, where he was working as an executive at One Fighting Championship, before he claims U.S. Border Patrol officers stopped him at a checkpoint and ended up putting him into a cell after walking him through the airport in handcuffs.
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According to Franklin, the case of mistaken identity started about a decade ago when he first traveled outside the United States and found out that there is a felon who obviously escaped custody at some point with his same name. Virtually every time Franklin comes back into the country now, he's asked a few questions to verify that he's not actually this felon on the run.
"Apparently there's a felon -- and I don't know all the details of the story because every time I come back into the country Homeland Security won't give me details -- but there's a felon who has my same name," Franklin explained when speaking to FOX Sports on Tuesday. "I'm not sure if he has the same middle name or not, but he has the same first and last name as me and possibly the same date of birth, but either way it's enough details to kind of confuse you.
"I don't have a problem leaving the country, it's just when I come back into the country and this started probably close to 10 years ago now when I was coming back from Canada and I got stopped at the Canadian border by U.S. Border Patrol and they pulled me aside and asked me a few questions and this is where I learned the information that there was this criminal and all this stuff."
Franklin has come to expect a little extra hassle when coming back into the country but the ordeal never usually lasts more than a few moments. He typically answers some standard questions to verify that he's not the felon who authorities are looking to apprehend.
Things didn't go as smoothly on Tuesday, however, as the recently retired UFC fighter landed at LAX and this time when he got through the customs line, he says he was stopped, detained and handcuffed with no explanation given.
"Today I'm coming back and they put an 'X' through my receipt, which is normal. When I fly in the country I have TSA pre-check so I don't have to go through the normal checks but when coming back in through Border Patrol for whatever reason I get asked all these questions," Franklin said.
"Today was no different, this female officer asked me a couple questions about how often I travel out of the country and I had just come back through the country from Asia less than two months ago through LAX so the next thing I know she stands up and looks at another guy and says '10:15' and I thought that was odd because it wasn't 10:15 but it was close enough at the time that I thought she was just giving him the time. Long story short, the other patrol officer -- and this is at immigration in front of several hundred people, who have now gotten off the plane -- the other officer gets out of his booth and handcuffs me. Hands behind my back, handcuffs me."
Once again, Franklin says he knew deep down this was just another case of mistaken identity although the latest incident was heading in a much different direction than any time he's ever been stopped before.
According to the former UFC fighter, without explanation, the officer handcuffed him and then led him through the airport back to a security area where he was placed in a cell while they continued to research information about his real identity.
"I asked him if I was under arrest and they said 'well we're to determine that'. So he has my hands handcuffed behind my back with some kind of funky wristlock on top of it and he said we're going to walk downstairs. At first I was kind of in good humor about it. When he first handcuffed me I was like they're going to ask me a couple questions and then take the handcuffs right back off but they didn't," Franklin said.
"So they walk me downstairs, they walk me through the entire airport, in front of everybody at immigration downstairs, by baggage claim in front of all these people, put me in a cell and detained me."
Franklin says he cooperated without incident but couldn't help but face some serious embarrassment as he was traipsed through the airport in handcuffs directly past passengers who had just asked him for an autograph and a picture when recognizing him on the plane. Now these same people saw the former UFC champion being led through the airport in shackles.
"The worst part was on the plane I was asked by certain fans to get a picture and when I came down through baggage claim, they walked me right by all these people who were on my plane. All these fans, they see me in handcuffs," Franklin said.
"It was just irritating. I believe that the border patrol would have been able to figure this out if they asked me a couple of questions at the point of entry. It's gotten to the point where I've dealt with this so many times because I travel so much, but this was above all else just inexcusable."
Franklin says the customs agents and border patrol took all of his personal items including his phone, keys, wallet, passport, belt and shoes before putting him in a cell with his hands still cuffed behind his back.
Again and again, Franklin said he asked if he was under arrest or what was happening but no one could give him a direct answer.
"They detained me in a cell for 15 minutes while they background checked me," Franklin said. "I asked them several times if I was under arrest and they said 'well, we're determining that' and I said if I'm not under arrest, why am I handcuffed?"
Finally after the background check came back proving that Franklin wasn't the felon with the same name, security removed the handcuffs and a supervisor offered a brochure where he could file a complaint.
Franklin admits the whole situation was mostly just irritating and embarrassing and while he absolutely supports increased security in the airports, he just couldn't fathom how this mistake happens every time he enters the country, and now it's gone as far as detaining him without explanation.
"At that point I was kind of irritated. I was like give me all my stuff back now," Franklin said. "I flew back from Asia because I'm speaking to the military this weekend. That's why I'm here. It's just crazy to me."