Identity Thieves Busted in a Hotel – and a Starbucks

August 20, 2007

Identity Thieves Busted in a Hotel - and a Coffee ShopActing on a tip, police in Northern California visited a hotel room — and busted two identity thieves who were allegedly using a stolen laptop to target over 40 potential victims. It’s just another dark corner in the world of identity theives.

The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported a research firm’s estimate that 8.4 million people were victims of identity theft in 2006. In June, a San Francisco woman even recognized the person who’d stolen her identity from a bank’s security camera photo — standing in front of her in line at a Starbucks.

These two stories show the details of how the criminals operate — and show the victims beating their thieves. For nearly an hour, Karen Lodrick chased the identity thief who’d cost her $30,000 in business over 6 months. According to the paper, the thief dropped a Prada wallet which contained Lodrick’s name on credit cards and an ATM debit card.

Ultimately a judge ordered the release of the identity thief (noting the 44 days served in jail waiting for her trial) — and sentenced her to just three years of probation. (The sentence also included mandatory psychological and substance abuse counselling, and an undetermined amount of restitution.) The paper notes the thief even smirked when entering the courtroom — and waved her victim. “They seem to treat non-violent cases like out-patient day surgery,” Lodrick complained on her web-log.

In nearby Alameda, the police were able to arrest another team of suspected identity thieves in June. 400 miles away, in Orange County, California, a woman had noticed her credit card being used to book a room in a hotel. At the hotel, police arrested the couple, where they found a Gateway computer that they’d also purchased with the credit card. But in addition, the couple had another laptop which the police believed was stolen from the Bayer corporation.

A police detective said the couple had gone online to visit genealogical research web sites — and gather information about future victims. When the web sites charged a fee — they’d simply used the stolen credit card to pay it, the police detectives told the newspaper. The couple had begun filling up notebooks with information they’d gathered about their future victims — all 41 of them.

Also in the hotel room was credit information about their targets Police believe the couple gathered the information the old-fashioned way — by “dumpster diving.” They told the local newspaper that the documents “appear to be faxes that were sent to and from hotels, providing credit information so that rooms can be held.”

According to the newspaper, multiple charges are expected to filed against the couple — 36-year-old Ira Netherly and 27-year-old Destini High. Ironically, the web page for the motel where they stayed urges its guests to “Escape to your own island retreat…”

“Allow the Coral Reef Inn and Suites and the island of Alameda to be your sheltered harbor…”

Karen Lodrick later told the San Francisco Chronicle that her identity thief “looked like she hadn’t bathed” — but she was holding a new Prada handbag. But Lodrick ultimately got the last laugh on her identity thief. According to an update on her blog last month, that arrest revealed the woman was wanted in two other California counties.

The thief has since been returned to jail to await new trials and sentencing for several other crimes — without bail.

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