Mail Fraud, Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud, Forgery, Grand Larceny...

About a week ago, I logged in to check on my credit card account and saw a $3000 transaction pending which didn't look familiar to me.

It was late at night, so I had to wait until the next day to speak to an actual person who could tell me what the transaction was for. Meanwhile, my boyfriend and I had been planning a vacation, so I thought it was possible that the hotel or the rental car company had put through a $3000 authorization. (Possible, but not likely).

The next day, I get an actual person on the phone, who tells me that the $3000 transaction is in the form of a cash advance check (one of those checks that come in your credit card statement) made out to a (names changed to protect the presumed innocent, but factually guilty) "Sharon Thompson." The lady from the credit card company asks me if I know a "Sharon Thompson" or if I wrote a check out to her. Nope, not me, close the account.

Now, at this point, I'm not really out $3000 - the credit card company isn't going to charge me for it. They just advise me to get a police report, just for my records.

I call the police department and they come out to my house (surprising, because when we've called 911 for an actual emergency no one ever shows up) and take a report.

Mostly, I'm concerned with how someone could have gotten my mail. But I got a police report, and I thought that was the end of that.

A few nights later someone rings my doorbell.

"Who is it?"
"My name is Fannie Thomspon. I'm Sharon Thompson's mother. Can you come out and speak to me?"


I was home by myself and I was utterly confused. If I opened the door, was she going to knock me out, come in and steal my mail? What exactly did she want? In the end, curiosity got the better of me and I went outside to speak to her.

She proceeded to tell me this story: Her 20 year old daughter, "Sharon Thompson" (the innocent little victim in all of this) goes to community college with a boy (let's call him "Alan," the big bad perpetrator in all of this). Alan came to Sharon and told her that he had a check that he needed to cash, but he didn't have a bank account. He asked Sharon if he could use her bank account, and he'd give her some part of the money in exchange. Sharon agreed and handed over her ATM card and her pin. He deposited the check in Sharon's account. A few days later, when the check cleared, the two of them went back to the bank. Sharon withdrew $2500, leaving $500 in her bank account for herself.

[Now, at this point, this girl can play dumb all she wants, but she must have known something was up. Not even the shadiest of check cashing joints charges a $500 fee. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.]

A few days later (after I've reported the check stolen), the bank pulls $3000 back out of the account. Finally, when Fannie goes to the bank, she finds that this joint account that she shares with Sharon is almost $3000 in the negative. She gets a copy of the returned check, which has my name and address on it. She calls her daughter to ask what was going on, her daughter tells her what I've just told you. Fannie takes it upon herself to go to Alan's house and demand the money. He plays dumb and refuses to give the money back. At this point, she comes to my house, and basically asks me not to get her daughter in trouble.

The two of us go the police department together, but they tell us to come back during the day when there's a detective available.

In the meantime, I call my credit card company to get a copy of the check. They fax a copy of the check to me - and it's a different check, made out to a different person. It turns out that someone (the mysterious Alan?) has put through not 1 but 2 checks of mine, totaling $6000.

The funniest part of all of this comes when I call the investigator assigned to my case by the credit card company. We talk about how much information I've managed to get, and she says that this a good thing because, generally, suspects are never caught in these cases. I'm a little excited, and I say (quite loudly) "Yeah, and I'd like to see them all go to jail." Just as I say this, I look up from my desk, and notice a few of my fellow criminal defense colleagues standing outside my door. They were having a conversation in the hallway but all stopped when I said this. Well, there's one thing that I'm sure is not heard in my office too often.

Around this time I also remembered that there was a month where I never got a statement - that must be where the stolen checks came from. A month or two back I had a late fee on my account, and I realized that this was because I had never gotten a statement the month before. I'm still left wondering how this person (or people) got my mail.

Yesterday, I spent a beautiful Saturday morning at the police department where a detective wrote up a detailed complaint. Both Thomspon mother and daughter were there (voluntarily).

The detective took a statement from the daughter, and of course, I found myself wondering how this case is going to look to her criminal defense attorney. Was that a custodial interrogation? She came to the station willingly, and from where I sat it looked like she could leave at any time. But she wasn't Mirandized, so you know her attorney will argue the opposite. If this "Alan" never confesses, what evidence do they have against him? Also, would she get a lighter sentence for being the more cooperative party? Time will tell...

Either way, it's certainly interesting for me to be on the other side of this, and to see how a case looks before it lands on the desk of a criminal defense attorney. I'll give you an update when I hear more about this.

4 comments:

  1. I've had some problems with credit card fraud. Nice to hear that sometimes they get caught out.

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  2. One point: No way would I have spoken with "Sharon Thompson" when she showed up at my house. I would've called the cops and had them arrest her then and there.

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  3. Glad to hear your credit card company is not trying to stick it to you.

    I too have experienced this problem. My replacement credit card was stolen out of my mailbox and the perps - oddly enough it was a similar boyfriend & "innocent" girlfriend team - activated the card and ran up a bunch of charges. They maxed out the card before I learned that the card was missing.

    I was lucky, though. It might surprise you that credit card / mail thieves also steal other things, like cars. Well, these two stole a car, ran a stop sign on a military base, and were arrested. In the car was found my credit card, my mail, and several boxes of checks stolen from people on my street. The guy is now in the state pen and is awaiting trial on federal charges. The girlfriend pled to a misdemeanor and got no time. However, at the sentencing I noticed that she was pregnant, which is effectively a life sentence.

    Moral of the story: I use a mailbox at the post office now.

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  4. Hello Blonde Justice,

    That reminds me of the old saying "A conservative is a liberal who's just been mugged".

    (Of course, in all fairness, "A liberal is a conservative who's just been arrested".)

    Not that this would or should change your whole point of view. But you've had a perfectly understandable look through the other side's perspective.

    I agree completely with your mission, especially the part about standing up for the underdog. I trust you understand (even if you hadn't already) that a crime victim feels very much like an underdog too.

    Cheers,

    Jeff Deutsch

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