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Criminal Charges: Volume XIV

Jeremy Simon

Welcome to the latest installment of my weekly collection of stories of credit card fraud and other crimes of the plastic persuasion. Today we have stolen breast augmentation and liposuction, a church secretary who took more than just dictation and some people who aren’t above stealing from needy kids.

$24K in plastic surgery put on stolen plastic
While stolen merchandise can be returned, the situation becomes more difficult when the items are now part of the thief’s body.

Authorities say Rosland Renee Edwards took “stolen plastic” literally, racking up $24,319 in plastic surgery at the Kimberly Henry Plastic Surgery Center in Marin County, Calif., on a Florida woman’s American Express card. “The procedure included $12,999 for breast enhancement and $11,320 of liposuction,” reports The Marin Independent Journal (via The Mercury News). “The surgery was performed in July. According to court documents, Edwards identified herself as ‘Maria Collier’ and presented an American Express card in that name.”

Edwards was a no-show for her scheduled follow-up appointments. After the plastic surgery center received a call in August about the charge, it contacted the real Maria Collier of Palm Beach, Fla.

Turns out the card thief was more than just the average plastic surgery aficionado. “Edwards is believed to be part of a crime ring that made New Jersey and Florida driver’s licenses to match American Express accounts, which were then used to buy women’s designer clothing and handbags, according to court documents,” The Mercury News reports.

Edwards was arrested on Oct. 27 in San Jose, Calif., while Henry has since been reimbursed by AmEx. (I’m assuming monetarily.)

Church secretary steals credit card
Even though I’m no theologian, I’m pretty sure that stealing from a church breaks at least one of the Ten Commandments.

mitchum.jpgBut the wrath of God wasn’t enough to deter one church’s secretary in South Carolina. According to the sheriff’s office in Aiken County, S.C., Michelle S. Mitchum used her former employer’s credit cards to make more than $75,000 in purchases over two years.

“Authorities say that from January 2006 until September 2008, Mitchum opened two credit card accounts in the church’s name,” reports “These accounts were used to pay household bills, buy clothing, jewelry and vacations.”

Mitchum was charged with grand larceny of more than $5,000 and surrendered last Monday to investigators at the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office.

Charity thieves run up credit card bills
If there is a warm spot in hell for people that steal from a church, there must be another equally toasty corner for those who rip off disadvantaged children.

According to a federal indictment unsealed Friday, former Birmingham, Ala., city council member and Jefferson County commissioner Gregory John Katopodis did just that. He used the charity’s bank account — containing money earmarked for needy kids — to pay for personal trips, make payments on his credit card and to make cash withdrawals in and around casinos.

Katopodis, now residing in Boston, was arrested on charges of fraud in connection with his theft of funds from local charity, Computer Help for Kids (CHK). Katopodis “was involved in founding CHK and controlled its finances and bank account,” reports. “CHK’s mission was to repair used computers donated by area businesses and to distribute them to poor, needy and disadvantaged children of Jefferson County, Ala., to increase access to technology.”

Elsewhere, a former intern in the Oakland, Calif., mayor’s office is under investigation for allegedly stealing account information from more than 100 donors to a holiday toy drive, including a dozen high-ranking police officers.

Phelicia Williams was arrested Oct. 12 on suspicion of charging $10,000 in personal items to a former employer’s credit card. Her misconduct while an intern was uncovered after former employer, Oakland attorney Pamela Price, informed the police that Williams used a company credit card for personal purchases, including sporting events, lingerie and a cell phone.

“During a search of Williams’ apartment this month, police found photocopies of personal checks that Oakland police officers wrote to last year’s Mayor’s Holiday Toy Drive,” the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Williams’ lawyer tells the paper that she “adamantly denies any criminal behavior.”

Katopodis and Williams may be interested to know that plastic melts over a hot flame.

Be smart, don’t be a victim
The next two stories give us an idea how not to prevent identity theft.

A man in Tucson, Ariz., should have been checking his credit report. Instead, he became a victim. The man “told deputies he discovered someone opened a credit card account using his identity in 2005,” reports (free registration required). For those of you who are counting, that is at least three years ago. The cardholder “said the account had an unpaid balance of $639.17 and had been sent to a collection agency. He told deputies his former address was on the account.”

With a free credit report available annually, there is no reason to wait until fraudulent charges get turned over to a collection agency for you to find out about them.

Meanwhile, a South Carolina man who allegedly made $47,000 in unauthorized charges has been charged for the crime. The victimized cardholder contacted the Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 1 to report that Thomas Howard Padgett had her personal information and wasn’t afraid to use it. “She told police that Padgett knew both her and her grandson’s Social Security numbers after hearing her state them over the telephone while speaking with a third party. She said that Padgett had used her credit cards in the past but that she told him to stop,” reports Padgett had also tried unsuccessfully to change the passwords on her bank account, she said, but had allegedly changed the address on her credit card account so that statements were sent to his address.

What can we learn from this? First, don’t discuss personal information when other people are nearby. Second, asking an identity thief to stop probably isn’t enough to get them to do so — even if you use the magic word “please.”

See related: Plastic surgery and credit cards a good mix?, Free credit report

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  • george

    give it to me for free