It turns out you can change your fingerprints, but it sounds painful. A Spanish fugitive dodged arrest for 15 years by cutting and burning the skin of his fingertips, then replacing it with micro-implants, the Guardian reports. The man, who was not named by police, was arrested Tuesday on drug trafficking charges in Getafe, a city near Madrid. "He’d used very sophisticated methods to alter the fingerprints of both hands so that he couldn’t be identified," a police spokesman said. "He used skin implants to change the shape of his prints so that the scars beneath couldn't be detected." The process took place over several years.
The fugitive evidently had other, less unusual tricks up his sleeve as well. Police said he had used false documents in the name of a Peruvian citizen to travel around the world and also posed as a Croatian citizen. "He had also had a hair transplant to avoid being recognized," said the police spokesman. In the US, the FBI has previously warned police agencies that suspects could be trying to change their prints or at least avoid a clear match, again by cutting or burning their fingertips. (Three decades after a brutal killing, a fingerprint led to an arrest.)