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Criminal Charges: Volume X

Jeremy Simon

Anger in limited amounts or appropriate situations is fine, experts say. So this week’s Criminal Charges will be dedicated to outrage. Cardholder negligence, real estate and banks all get some of that emotion directed at them.

Let’s try not to get too worked up, shall we?

Debit card with PIN stolen from car
If you’ve read this column before, you may have heard me go on a rant about consumers having their unattended credit cards stolen from parked vehicles. A recent crime that took place in Fairlawn, Ohio, involves a debit card, but the situation is similarly vexing.

“A woman reported she parked her vehicle in the driveway of her residence on Dalton Drive Sept. 22 and returned to find her wallet had been stolen by suspects who used her debit card to make five withdrawals from her bank account,” the West Side Leader reports. Seems like your standard-issue cardholder mistake — until you read on and see what true stupidity is. “Her PIN was in the wallet,” the Web site reports.

Now that’s dumb: She might as well have just take the crooks to an ATM asked how much money they wanted withdrawn.

Another reason to be furious about housing, banking
There has been lots of anger directed at the banking and real estate sectors in recent months. There may be room for some more.

A Kennewick, Wash., woman, who is a licensed real estate agent, helped her daughter, a bank vice president, devise an identity theft scheme that resulted in thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges, authorities say.

“Cynthia Jean Walker, 54, also admitted that she used her job as a licensed real estate agent to find vacant homes where the fraudulent credit cards could be sent and picked up,” reports tricityherald.com. “Walker’s daughter, Cassidy R. Janosky, 36, worked at Bank of the West as a vice president, business development officer. Janosky is accused of obtaining personal information from bank customers and using that information to open credit cards in the customers’ names.” Together, they stand accused of fraudulently charging more than $13,000 dollars worth of merchandise online from Sears.

Mother and daughter were arrested in January when they visited the Kennewick Sears to pick up some merchandise, including a treadmill that was meant to be a birthday present for Walker.

Proving the old “no honor among thieves” saying, Walker and Janosky have turned on each other in a bid to each help themselves. Walker’s plea agreement includes testifying against her daughter, court documents show.

Janosky, meanwhile, lays the blames on mom. “Janosky told investigators that the scheme was her mother’s idea. She said Walker was dating someone in prison and always was broke and constantly borrowing money,”  the Web site reports. “Janosky said her mother suggested getting information from her bank customers, and Janosky said it was easy to do because she dealt with finances all day.”

“Walker, however, said that just before Christmas, her daughter said she was going to use information from credit files of loan applications to open credit card accounts,” tricityherald reports.

With Walker potentially receiving up to six months in prison for her role and Janosky charged with four counts of mail fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft, their next mother-daughter get-together could take place behind bars.

More bank employees behaving badly
Maybe it’s being around all that money, but banking employees certainly caught the desire to steal recently.

Four Louisville, Ky., residents were indicted on charges of defrauding credit card customers and retail stores of more than $100,000, following a ploy that involved the use of credit information from suspect Evonne Callaway’s workplace. Elaine Dudley, her daughter Celestina Dudley and Saleem Carter have also been charged.

“According to court records, a two-year investigation resulted in allegations that Callaway took credit reports from the banking institution where she worked to gain access to individuals’ financial information,” reports The Courier-Journal. The paper says court documents did not identify Callaway’s employer. “Then Calloway, the Dudleys and Carter used the information to obtain credit cards and had them sent to a Louisville address.”

The Dudleys were arrested Monday. Police are still searching for Callaway and Carter.

Meanwhile, the former credit card processing manager for Sunflower Bank in Salina, Kan., was charged Wednesday with one count of embezzlement and one count of unlawful use of a credit card, according to the office of U.S. Attorney for Kansas Eric Melgren. According to The Wichita Eagle, “Kellie M. Schmitt, 35, of Salina is alleged to have committed the crimes between June 2005 and May 2007, Melgren’s office said in a news release.”

The indictment alleges that Schmitt embezzled about $122,000.

“She allegedly moved funds from an internal training account and dormant or closed accounts, created false account transactions and false cash advances, reversed finance charges, suppressed account statements and opened and utilized unauthorized credit card accounts,” reports The Topeka Capital-Journal.

As if consumers need more reasons to be wary about keeping their money in banks right now.

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