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Criminal Charges: 2008 in review

Jeremy Simon

It’s been an eventful first year for Criminal Charges, my weekly look at what happens when criminals and credit cards meet. To celebrate the impending end of 2008, I’ve decided to put together a look back at some of the unusual and audacious crimes involving plastic that have been included in this blog column so far. Hope you enjoy re-connecting with some of our favorite fraudsters.

Lego employee steals blocks, shouts-out Leprechaun film
Debt can make you do some crazy things — like stealing Lego blocks using your corporate credit card and then assuming the name “Spaceleprechaun” to sell them on eBay.

That’s exactly what Linda Hegarty of Belchertown, Mass., did between 2002 and 2008, buying Star Wars-themed Legos using her company-issued credit card and then offering the blocks on auction Web site eBay. Hegarty apparently hoped to use the profits she earned to pay down debt.

Although the links from Criminal Charges: Volume XIII — to date, the most-read edition of this column — to the original news items chronicling her tale have been taken down, you can rest assured that the YouTube clip of “Leprechaun 4:In Space” still functions just fine.

Woman pleads guilty to defrauding her boyfriend
Bethany Eldredge was featured back in Criminal Charges: Volume IV, around the time she was arrested for using her boyfriend’s credit card to go on a shopping and dining spree that ended when he caught her and another man in a hotel room — also charged to the boyfriend’s plastic.

Male readers in the market for a lady friend, take note: Eldredge appeared in a Portsmouth, Maine, court in September, where she pleaded guilty to some of the charges. “In exchange for guilty pleas to charges of fraudulent use of a credit card and forgery, the forgery charge was reduced from a felony and four other charges were dismissed,” reports Seacoastonline.com. “The credit card conviction was Eldredge’s admission to using her boyfriend’s card without his permission to obtain a room and services at the Best Western on Aug. 20.”

That conviction resulted in a deferred 12-month jail sentence contingent on a year of good behavior, probation for collection of $462 in restitution and a court order to comply with recommended treatment from a mental health provider. Eldredge was also fined for her forgery charge, given an added jail sentence and ordered to pay restitution. As part of her negotiated plea deal, charges alleging Eldredge stole her boyfriend’s credit card to dine at a local Japanese restaurant, hit the mall and purchase some liquor were all dropped.

Thieves take plastic, give gas
It wasn’t all take, take, take in world of credit card crime this past year. In Criminal Charges: Volume VII, we featured a criminal duo from the Bronx, N.Y., who used a stolen credit card to give back, supplying fuel to drivers at a New York gas station.

During the early hours of a September morning, Christian Escotto and Joseph Rosario allegedly used the card to help fill up multiple cars at a Mamaroneck, N.Y., Shell station. What did they get for their troubles? A felony charge of criminal possession of stolen property.

Pilot soars on lousy card
Some criminals managed to fly before crash-landing in jail. Criminal Charges: Volume XVIII told the tale of Ohio pilot George M. Salameh, who managed to charter three private flights with an invalid credit card number.

Salameh’s travels apparently took him between Ohio, Florida and New Jersey. However, when the aviation firm that allowed him to charter the planes submitted his credit card information for payment, the company discovered Salameh’s card was invalid. That led to charges of theft for the formerly high flier.

Credit card provides alibi for vending machine
Plastic wasn’t always a way into crimes. Sometimes it was an attempted way out.

After Timothy J. Liss and Peter T. Vang of Wassau, Wis., were caught allegedly prying the doors off rest area vending machines to get at the cash inside, Liss attempted to talk himself out of any charges by claiming that the large amount of cash police found on him was due to the fact that he was a disk jockey with no credit card. He also claimed he and Vang had pulled off the road due to foggy conditions.

Since he was featured in our “Recession-proof crimes” edition of Criminal Charges, Liss apparently hasn’t been focusing entirely on his DJ career. According to a Nov. 30 report from fdlreporter.com, Liss was sentenced to five days in jail and had his license suspended for six months for possession of drug paraphernalia.

See you in 2009.

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  • Eddie Whitehead

    I have a small business, my (soon to be X) gave her son a corporate Shell and Exxon credit card. I knew nothing about this. The charges for the year 2008 = +- $17,000. He obviously gave gas for drugs because he is an admitted drug user. What can I do about this?
    Thank you very much!!