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Criminal Charges: Scammers with no shame

Jeremy Simon

Credit card thieves apparently have little shame. In this week’s collection of card fraud items, scammers show their willingness to steal from nearly anyone — including abused children, deceased parents and Medicare — if it gets them a (sometimes brief) taste of the good life.

  • criminal-charges-inmate.jpgHow low can a couple stoop? The former executive director of Oklahoma’s Court Appointed Special Advocates — which provides legal help for abused and neglected children — and her husband have been arrested for allegedly stealing nearly $500,000 from the organization. According to, investigators say that Anna and Eugene Naukam used credit cards obtained in the organization’s name for personal items, including a hot tub, Playboy magazine subscription, vacations and $8,000 in cosmetic surgery.
  • You don’t have to run an advocacy group to make some dubious charges. Ray Sansom’s American Express statements show the ex-Florida House speaker put $173,000 in expenses on his Republican Party-issued credit card over a two-year period, the St. Petersburg Times reports. Made public as part of a criminal case against Sansom, the credit card statements include the cost of taking his family on a European vacation, baby-sitting services, tuxedo rentals and lots of coffee — a jolting $839 in charges at Starbucks.
  • Elsewhere, Joel Swartz of Ocean City, Md., pleaded guilty to charging $75,197.14 to the credit card accounts of his deceased parents between July 2000 and December 2008, reports. Prosecutors charge the banks were never told the account holders had died. Swartz’s wife Esther was indicted at the same time as her husband, but she passed away in July before charges against her were resolved.
  • The California attorney general reports that on Aug. 13 agents arrested two people who they say scammed Medicare out of $678,000 by submitting fake bills for walkers, wheelchairs, canes and shoes for diabetics, but instead got around just fine in a gold-colored Hummer H200 purchased with the proceeds. A search of the office belonging to the third suspect, who remains at large, turned up $170,000 in cash, fraudulent credit cards and duplicate passports.
  • Alberto “SoupNazi” Gonzalez may be an even bigger cyberthief than previously believed: The Miami Herald reports the hacker had apparently stolen an additional 130 million credit card numbers, compared with the 41 million cards Gonzalez federal agents said last year that had been snatched by the online thief.
  • criminal-charges.JPGPolice say a trio of men used a stolen credit card to try to charge items at a Target in Vestal, N.Y., then distracted the responding officers by falsely reporting a carjacking via a call to 911, the Press & Sun-Bulletin reports.
  • John Phillip Barker of Overland Park, Kan., was charged on Aug. 21 with again sending a letter to a government office claiming to contain anthrax, the Kansas City Star reports. That wasn’t his only repeat offense. In the latest letter, Barker again misspelled anthrax as “antrax.” He was caught previously after investigators traced his fake anthrax letter to a postal center where he bought postage with a credit card.
  • Finally, the Denver Post reports that federal agents broke up an alleged organized fraud ring involving 16 Russian immigrants who may have caused more than $80 million in losses. According to federal agents, the scheme involved more than 700 people — mostly students in the United States on visas recruited by the criminal group — who used the identities and credit lines of businesses to obtain loans and merchandise with no plan to repay the debt. Additionally, some of the 700 individuals also allegedly obtained credit cards to charge luxury items.

See you next week with even more tales of low-down (and temporarily high-flying) credit card thieves.

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