Member Of A Pickpocket Crew Sentenced To Over 3 Years In Prison
Conspirators Targeted Women in Restrooms
Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis sentenced Crystal Barner, age 28, of Baltimore, today to 37 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for a scheme in which Barner and her co-conspirators stole wallets from women’s purses, removed the cash, credit cards and driver’s licenses and used the credit cards to make purchases at nearby stores. Judge Garbis gave Barner credit for four months served on a related state court sentence, and ordered Barner to pay restitution of $142,717.61.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Brian Murphy of the United States Secret Service – Baltimore Field Office; Colonel Michael Kundrat, Chief of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police; Chief James W. Johnson of the Baltimore County Police Department; and Commissioner Anthony W. Batts of the Baltimore Police Department.
According to her plea agreement, beginning in May 2007, Barner was part of a scheme to defraud financial institutions by stealing credit cards from the wallets and purses of unsuspecting individuals, then using the stolen credit cards to make purchases. Specifically, the leader of the scheme, Ida Mae Weathers, an experienced pickpocket, would linger in women’s restrooms and steal the wallets from purses hung on the hooks in the stalls. Often, Barner or one of the other co-conspirators would create a distraction in an adjacent stall, such as asking for toilet paper, so that the victim would be looking away from her purse. Barner and other conspirators also sometimes served as a “lookout” for Weathers. Often Weathers was able to remove cash and credit cards and return the wallet to the victim’s purse without the victim seeing or suspecting the theft.
Weathers used some of the stolen credit cards herself and provided stolen credit cards to Barner, and other co-conspirators such as, Maureen Brown Little, Nicole Roles, Sharon Curtis and Nefeteria Jamison. The conspirators took the cards to nearby retail stores and used each card until it began to be declined. The conspirators purchased items for their personal use, as well as gift cards or high end merchandise that Weathers would direct them to buy and would then resell. Barner knew that the credit cards were stolen and knew that other members of the conspiracy were conducting fraudulent transactions as well.
During the course of the conspiracy, Barner and others obtained goods, services and extensions of credit in the amount of $142,717.61, and caused losses to or used the identities of between 10 and 50 financial institutions, businesses and individuals.
Ida Mae Weathers, a/k/a Ida Mae Snipes, age 49, of Baltimore, was sentenced to 259 months in prison, for conspiracy, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft, and was ordered to pay restitution of $151,180.50. Co-conspirator Nicole Roles, age 43, was sentenced to 57 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $8,462.39. Sharon Curtis, age 32, Maureen Brown Little, age 39, and Nefeteria Jamison, age 32, all of Baltimore, pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme. Brown-Little and Curtis are both scheduled to be sentenced on March 13, 2014, and Jamison is scheduled to be sentenced on January 29, 2014.
Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the U.S. Secret Service, Maryland Transportation Authority Police, Baltimore County Police Department, Baltimore City Police Department, and Atlantic City, New Jersey Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein praised Assistant U.S. Attorney Tamera L. Fine, who is prosecuting the case.