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Criminal Charges, Volume XL: Family-style fraud

Jeremy Simon

Mother’s Day may have come and gone, but here at Criminal Charges, family is celebrated year-round. That celebration even extends to relatives who engage in fraud of the credit card variety.

This week’s look at card theft spotlights a helpful son who came to his father’s defense against allegations of using the card of a missing man, a son who allegedly stole from his sick mom to finance his gambling and a woman who stands accused of running up credit card debt and student loans in her former mother-in-law’s name.

Son defends father against accusations of using missing friend’s plastic
U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Mark Toone recently stepped up to defend his father against allegations of card theft and involvement in a man’s disappearance.

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His father, Randall Toone, was arrested in February and is currently being held on a governor’s warrant in the Clark County Jail in Las Vegas, KPVI News 6 reports. As for the elder Toone, “A spokesman for the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office says he could be extradited to Idaho very soon. When he gets here, Toone will face credit card fraud charges out of Bonneville County,” KPVI reports. “Sources close to the case say the card in question belonged to Jon Barrett.”

Who is Jon Barrett? According to Capt. Toone, his father and Barrett have been friends for more than 30 years since both men worked together for the railroad.

But Barrett has now been missing for more than six months — and Randall Toone has been linked to the use of one of Barrett’s credit cards.

An Idaho resident, “Barrett disappeared last November from Pocatello, leaving his dogs behind and no evidence of where he was going or if he would be back,” LocalNews8.com reports. That Web site reported that the Pocatello Police Department indicated that an investigation was ongoing and active so they were unable to comment. However, police did say that Toone’s stories have changed, while the original governor’s arrest warrant was issued out of Bonneville County, which is where Toone is alleged to have used the missing man’s credit card.

Still, Capt. Toone says the allegations regarding the card use and rumors his father was involved in Barrett’s disappearance have been seriously overblown. “As far as I know, there was just the one issue right there, and my dad had permission to do it,” he told KPVI about the card use. “If John was around, this would be not even a factor.” Unfortunately, he isn’t — and it is.

Son allegedly stole from ailing mother to finance gambling, tanning habits
If Mother’s Day coincided with a “worst child” award, Barry E. Brown would certainly be in the running.

That’s because according to King County, Wash., prosecutors, Brown used his power of attorney for his mother, Dottie — who suffered a debilitating stroke in 2006 — to drain her bank accounts, run up debt on her credit card and mortgage her already paid-off condominium.

The 63-year-old Brown was recently charged with one count of first-degree theft. “Brown had his mother sign over power of attorney in February 2006, giving him full control over her finances and real estate, according to the charging documents. At the time, she had a little bit of money in the bank, a credit card and her condo, which was paid off,” the Seattle Times reports. One week later, Dottie suffered a stroke and was hospitalized, later ending up in a nursing home.

“Within a month, prosecutors say, Brown had executed a $198,000 reverse mortgage on the condo. He took at least $5,000 out of her bank account and wrote checks to himself and the AAA auto club for his own membership and the state for his health insurance,” the Seattle Times reports.

That wasn’t all Brown allegedly did with his mom’s money. “He also used his mother’s credit card to book trips to Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe. And he used the card at smoke shops, gas stations, grocery stores, auto-repair garages and a Federal Way tanning salon, the court documents say. The bills topped $4,400.”

All that gambling, smoking and tanning apparently didn’t leave Brown with much cash left over to pay the nursing home that was caring for his 93-year-old mother. According to UPI.com, due to Dottie’s $37,000 bill, the nursing home transferred her to one that accepts Medicaid patients.

Her son remains free for now but has been summoned to an arraignment on May 13, 2009. Brown needs to prepare himself: It’s doubtful the big house has a tanning bed.

Former daughter-in-law accused of identity theft
There may be a good reason some people become ex-family members. A Waseca, Minn., woman contacted police after her credit card company requested payment on a $15,398 balance she knew nothing about. That credit card account apparently bore the victim’s name and Social Security number but used the address of her former daughter-in-law, Kathleen Marion Studnicka.

After speaking with police, “the alleged victim ran a credit report and discovered that there were approximately $105,000 in fraudulent charges, none of which the victim knew about,” the Waseca County News reports. “The charges began in October of 2006 and went through October 2008.” Those included 11 educational loans and two credit cards in the woman’s name, which she told police she had neither opened, co-signed nor given anyone permission to open.

The credit report listed two addresses — in Byron and Rochester, Minn. — at which she had never lived. However, she said Studnicka had lived at both locations.

On Jan. 29, police received a call from Chase in regard to one of the credit card balances. A Chase fraud investigator confirmed that the account was opened in the victim’s name but used Studnicka’s address. “The investigator added that a convenience check was drawn on the account shortly after it was opened, payable to Studnicka, who endorsed the back of it,” the paper reports.

Police say Studnicka later acknowledged taking out student loans and two credit cards in the victim’s name. Studnicka apparently admitted that she was having financial problems, with the student loans taken out for her and her child and the $10,000 convenience check used for living expenses like food, gas and utility bills.

“According to the complaint, Studnicka said she probably had opened both credit accounts online, just like she had with the student loans,” the Waseca County News reports. “She added that she forged the victim’s signature where she had to list her as a co-signer.”

Studnicka has been charged with felony identity theft and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail and a $100,000 fine if convicted. She is due in court again on June 23.

See related: How to read, understand your credit report

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  • Anonymous

    The credit card companies in themselves are fraudulent and criminals- who love to suck the life out of people- tell me if identity theft is any different.