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Identity Thieves Hit the Mall for Jewels, Dry Wall

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on March 30, 2010 1:50 PM

What would you do with a brand new, shiny credit card (number) that you don't ever have to pay for? How about hit the mall and head over to Victoria's Secret and the Jared the Galleria of Jewelry. Then it's off to Lowe's for a plasma TV and some drywall. Don't ask.

All this is exactly what a clever ring of identity thieves operating in the Chicago area did with their ill-gotten gains. The Chicago-Sun Times reports that Shikila Blount, 29; Dorothy Brown, 20; Tangie Strickland, 18; Talonda Hampton, 35; Shamara Bright, 22; Crystal Cannon-Kariuki, 30 and Eartricca Johnson, 26, were arrested and charged in connection with the ID theft caper. Warrants have been issued for the remaining members of the ring: Laqueshia Homes, 25; Selina Hayes, 18 and Tijuana Leonard, 33. The charges include felony theft, identity theft and organizing a continuing financial criminal enterprise.

According to the Sun-Times, the key to the plan was Tijuana Leonard, who worked as a night janitor at the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation. The Foundation courteously kept its file cabinets filled with patient information unlocked during the evening hours. Leonard allegedly simply noted down information from at least 250 of the patient files. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart told the paper that Leonard and her associates used the information to gain access to credit reports or to apply to be added to existing cardholder accounts.

If the charges prove true, once at the suburban mall of choice, the sheer chutzpah of the gang knew no bounds. If a store attempted to stop a purchase because one of the alleged thieves had only the card number, not the actual card, she would claim discrimination. Evidently the store would cave and one more diamond, TV, lingerie set or chunk of drywall would be added to the pile.

Not to blame the victims, but according to Sheriff Dart, the thieves were able to get away with quite a bit because the card owners did not check their statements, or credit reports and did not notice the unusual activity.

The Sun-Times reports that a spokeswoman for Northwestern Memorial Hospital released a statement saying that the hospital takes patient privacy "very seriously" and was working with the Sheriff's Department to identify all possible victims. She declined to comment if the file cabinets are now secure.

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