TWO MEMBERS OF A PICKPOCKET CREW PLEAD GUILTY TO
A BANK FRAUD CONSPIRACY AND AGGRAVATED IDENTITY THEFT
Conspirators Targeted Women in Restrooms
Baltimore, Maryland – Crystal Barner, age 28, and Maureen Brown Little, age 39, both of Baltimore, pleaded guilty today to a scheme in which the 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.
The guilty pleas were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Acting Special Agent in Charge Lisa Quinn 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 their plea agreements, beginning in May 2007, the women were 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 group, who was experienced at pickpocketing wallets, would wait in women’s restrooms and steal the wallets of women who hung their purses on the hooks in the stalls. Often, 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 sometimes served as a “lookout” for the leader. Often the leader 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.
Barner and Little, who each participated in the scheme until her arrest in 2012, received stolen credit cards from the leader. 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 the leader of the scheme would direct them to buy and would then resell. Barner and Little engaged in the scheme on a regular basis, 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 Little obtained goods, services and extensions of credit of between $30,000 and $70,000, and caused losses to or used the identities of between 10 and 50 financial institutions, businesses and individuals.
The defendants each face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for bank fraud conspiracy and a mandatory sentence of two years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence imposed, for aggravated identity theft. U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis has scheduled sentencing for Barner on August 2, 2013 and for Little on July 26, 2013.
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 and Baltimore City Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein praised Assistant U.S. Attorney Tamera L. Fine, who is prosecuting the case.