News and Press Releases

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

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District of Columbia Woman Sentenced to 6 ½ Years in Prison
In Massive Credit Card Fraud and Identity Theft Scheme
- She and Others Stole Identifying Information, Obtained and Accessed Credit -

     WASHINGTON - Dionne N. Witherspoon, 37, has been sentenced to 78 months in prison on charges stemming from her participation in a scheme to steal identifying information, obtain credit and/or access victims’ existing bank accounts, and purchase merchandise, pay bills, and pay District of Columbia parking tickets with the stolen credit and bank accounts.

     The sentencing, which took place Oct. 4, 2011, was announced by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr.; Daniel S. Cortez, Inspector in Charge, Washington Division, U.S. Postal Inspection Service; District of Columbia Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby; David Beach, Special Agent in Charge, Washington Field Office, U.S. Secret Service, and Cathy L. Lanier, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).

     Witherspoon, of Washington, D.C., pled guilty in August 2010 to conspiracy and to fraud in connection with access devices. She was sentenced by the Honorable Henry H. Kennedy, Jr., who also ordered that she pay $92,720 in restitution. Upon completion of her prison term, Witherspoon will be placed on three years of supervised release.

     According to information submitted to the court by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri L. Schornstein, Witherspoon helped organize a highly sophisticated identity theft and fraud ring from December 2006 through March 2010 that included more than 176 corporate and individual victims and at least 765 transactions resulting in approximately $1,446,805 in fraudulently obtained lines of credit and charges to those lines of credit of approximately $88,855.

     Witherspoon put together an extensive network of co-conspirators who obtained victims’ identifying information and bank account information by stealing mail from the mailboxes at personal residences located in the District of Columbia and elsewhere.

     The network also stole credit card receipts from a medical office in the 7300 block of Wisconsin Avenue NW and from two locations of Johnson’s Flower Shop, at 4200 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. and 10313 Kensington Ave., Kensington, Md. In addition, credit card receipts and prescriptions were stolen from the CVS Pharmacy at 13th and U Streets NW, and student identifying information was stolen from Howard University.

     The stolen identification information was used to make fraudulent transactions on legitimate credit accounts maintained by victims, to open and use on-line credit accounts, and /or to effect debit transactions directly from the victims’ checking accounts to make “pay-by-phone” transactions.

     Witherspoon asked others to accept delivery of merchandise shipped to their residences located in the District of Columbia and other places, which was purchased using the stolen or fraudulently obtained account information, in exchange for various benefits such as merchandise, payment of utility and cell phone bills, and payment of D.C. parking tickets. In addition, Witherspoon and others would receive “orders” for merchandise or to pay bills. The “customers” would give Witherspoon half of the face value of the cost for the merchandise, bill or outstanding parking tickets and Witherspoon would use stolen or fraudulently obtained account information to pay for the merchandise, bill or parking tickets.

     Nine others have been convicted and sentenced in this case.

     In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen, Inspector in Charge Cortez, Inspector General Willoughby, Special Agent in Charge Beach, and Chief Lanier commended the work of Special Agent Bernadette Atwater of the D.C. Office of the Inspector General; Postal Inspector Dean Davis of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Special Agent Christopher Macomber, of the U.S. Secret Service; Detective Michael Pavaro, of the MPD, and the staff of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Legal Assistant Jared Forney and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri L. Schornstein, who is prosecuting the case.



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