Family may be a source of happiness for many people, but not the folk in this edition of Criminal Charges. This latest collection of stolen credit card stories and identity theft tales links items that include mandolins, ponies and a rotten way to end your vacation, all tied together by the thread of familial bonds.
House fire reportedly set to hide mandolin theft
While this may not be the first crime involving the alleged use of arson to disguise the theft of a mandolin, I certainly haven’t heard of any others.
Based on evidence, Michael C. Shoopman of Berea, Ky., and his girlfriend, Marisa Nichole Pearson, stand accused of arson after the lovebirds allegedly set fire to Shoopman’s parent’s home on Nov. 19, 2008, in an attempt to hide the theft of a mandolin from the house.
On June 24, the Kentucky State Police arson investigator testified at a preliminary hearing that he believes the fire was set in an effort to conceal the theft of the instrument, since investigators were unable to find any mandolin remains after the fire. He added that the mandolin may have later been pawned.
Citing a Richmond police spokesman, the Richmond Register reports, “Shoopman is alleged to have pawned the mandolin, a guitar and a Sony PlayStation 3 video game console to Richmond Pawn in December and January.”
The police say that an investigation indicated that Shoopman and an unidentified woman returned to the pawnshop twice in January to retrieve the items with a credit card that was later found not to belong to the woman who used it. The $1,530 in credit card charges put on the plastic were not authorized by the cardholder.
Mortgage scammers targeted family members
A pair of women from New Jersey and Philadelphia were indicted on June 30 for masterminding a scheme that used stolen identities to illegally borrow over $1 million worth of unauthorized mortgages, lines of credit and credit cards.
The charges leveled at Yi Feng Reid of Bergen County, N.J., and Yu Jane Chen, whose last known address was in Philadelphia, include conspiracy, identity theft and money laundering. In the same indictment, George Liu and Ji Gang Chen, both formerly living in New York but now residing in China, were also charged with conspiracy and identity theft.
With help from Reid and Yu Jane Chen, both men allegedly obtained mortgages on family members’ homes by using their relatives’ identities.
Reid and Yu Jane Chen both were involved in the mortgage and small business loan industry in the Bergen County area, where they unlawfully used the identities of other people to obtain mortgages, other types of loans and unauthorized credit card accounts from 2004 through mid-2007, according to the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice.
Based on a press release from the state attorney general, “some victims of the alleged identity theft gave Reid and Yu Jane Chen their personal and financial information in the process of seeking and ultimately obtaining a loan. In other cases, victims provided their personal information while beginning the loan process, then changed their minds and elected not to seek a loan.”
“Those who provided Reid and Yu Jane Chen with identifying information later learned their names had been used to secure unauthorized mortgages, loans and credit cards,” the release explains.
The four defendants stand accused of obtaining mortgages worth $850,000 via stolen identities and false information, as well as $300,000 in bank-approved loans and credit accounts. Apparently, the women used checks, credit card transactions and cash proceeds from their fraudulently-obtained accounts to go make ATM withdrawals, go shopping at supermarkets, gas stations, toy stores and jewelry stores.
Additionally, thousands of dollars went to a spiritual adviser the two shared, with credit and cash proceeds also allegedly used to pay for ponies to entertain Reid’s child.
Just when you thought it was safe for family to house-sit …
How would you like to return from a vacation only to find you’d been robbed — by your own child?
That’s the situation that apparently greeted one Texas couple upon their return from a trip to Alaska. Their adult daughter, who was seemingly responsible for watching the house while they were away, decided to help herself to some extra cash.
“The female had written a check to herself off the parent’s account, they were missing four travelers checks and a credit card had been taken and used seven times,” Montgomery County News reports.
Luckily, the deputy who met with her parents found the 43-year-old daughter was already doing some big-house sitting behind bars after being arrested on an apparently separate charge.
“Her property was checked and the stolen credit card was located,” the News reports.
See related: Strapped for cash? Pawnshops offer short-term solution