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Criminal Charges: Volume I

Jeremy Simon

There are credit card charges and there are criminal charges.

In this ongoing blog column, I’ll consider the combination — where purposefully illegal or downright dumb behavior involving credit cards draws the attention of the police. Each week, I’ll report from the intersection of crime and plastic to bring you the highlights, or lowlights, depending on your opinion.

On to the past week’s credit card crime stories.

Burning down the house
Recipe for a snarky blog item: Combine a criminal named Darling and charges involving the arson of her best friend’s home.

Seventeen-year-old Samantha Darling of Nampa, Idaho, decided the easiest way to hide an earlier crime was by burning down her BFF’s home. “Police believe she set the house on fire to cover up the theft of the family’s credit card,” reports

“Darling’s friend testified that the teens were hanging out at her house May 1 when she mentioned that her parents were at the police station reporting a stolen bank card. A short time later, the friend said, she saw Darling in the adjacent shop building,” says. “A short time after that, the shop was on fire.” The shop fire was put out but not before spreading, eventually destroying much of the home.

The not-so-darling young fire starter told police she lit a piece of paper on fire and tossed it across the bed. As for what would make her do such a thing, blame it on burning love. Darling’s mother indicated that her daughter had initially taken the family’s credit card to help a boy she liked get out of “a financial bind.”

Darling was charged with arson and illegal use of a credit card. After bonding out of jail, she “cannot carry any devices that could start a fire,” KTVB says — presumably meaning no lighters, matches, blowtorches, flint and steel or magnifying glasses. Just to be on the safe side, I would also discourage her friends from letting Darling handle their credit cards.

Pharmacists prescribed jail time for Internet drug dealing
Moving from one name that makes my job easy to two that make it difficult, Maryland pharmacists Steven Abiodun Sodipo and Callixtus Onigbo Nwaehiri were convicted on July 31 in Baltimore federal court for using the Internet to sell pharmaceutical drugs. The charges stemmed from the illegal Internet sale of nearly 10 million addictive painkillers to customers in possession of valid credit cards.

The duo (who jointly operated a Charm City pharmacy) face maximum sentences of 70 years in prison after being “found guilty of selling 9,936,075 units of hydrocodone online using phony prescriptions; conspiracy to launder money; engaging in transactions involving the proceeds of drug sales and filing false tax returns,” according to the Baltimore Sun.

“Prosecutors said that beginning in 2004, the defendants joined a ‘nationwide conspiracy’ to illegally sell hydrocodone over the Internet to anyone with a valid credit card. They engaged in agreements with Web site operators to fill prescriptions e-mailed to them that were signed by a small group of doctors.”

I wonder how many rewards points you can earn on the purchase of 10 million painkillers.

Chinese bomb threat aims to eliminate credit card bill
With a near-doubling in the number of Chinese credit cards over the past year, the People’s Republic is also putting some plastic in the hands of troublemakers.

After running up a US$571 tab at a Chongquing, China, department store, a shopper (identified only by the surname Zheng) decided a phone call would wipe out his credit card bill. “Zheng’s bank had been demanding payment of the debt, so, under pressure, he called the store, saying he had placed bombs on the ground and second floors,” city Public Security Bureau deputy director Wang Lijun told Web site China View on Saturday.

The store responded to the bomb threat by phoning an emergency call center and evacuating the building. Police arrived and swept the building three times, but uncovered no explosive devices.

Telephone operators helped trace the bomb threat call to Zheng. Upon being detained, he admitted making the call, but denied planting any bombs, Wang said. Zheng “allegedly told police he had carried out the hoax after his bank demanded he settle his credit card bill, which he had racked up at exclusively at the store.”

While the penalty rate for bomb threats is uncertain, I’ll bet his behavior really messed up Zheng’s interest rates.

You are wanted for credit card crimes
That’s it for this installment, but feel free to provide links to the Web’s best criminal credit card tales in the “comments” section below. Your suggestions could make their way into a future post.

See related: Criminal Charges: Volume II, Criminal Charges: Volume III, Bail yourself out of jail — with a credit card, Report: Chinese credit card market nearly doubles in a year, Hookers playing ‘Halo,’ charges from the grave and more: Wacky credit card stories

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