Law enforcement officials in California have accused a 43-year-old woman of stealing the identities of multiple people who she met through dating and home rental sites. The woman was detained at a luxury hotel in Santa Barbara County on April 28 and booked on two felony warrants. Investigators say she was staying at the hotel under a stolen identity.
According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the accused woman used fraud to commit numerous acts of financial abuse and identity theft over many years. She would allegedly assume the identities of people she met after finding their personal information. The woman allegedly used her victims' credit cards to live in high-end hotels and purchase thousands of dollars of items. Though the woman presents herself as a dog trainer, authorities believe she has no source of legitimate income.
The accused woman has several prior criminal convictions on her record dating back to 1997. She spent time in prison for 11 felony counts of credit card fraud, grand theft and identity theft. In the most recent case, the woman is thought to have caused over $250,000 in losses.
A large-scale fraud investigation like this usually takes many months to complete, and people may become aware that they are being investigated before they are actually charged.Those who are in this situation may want to contact an attorney to discuss their options. An attorney can field communications with investigators and begin preparing a defense strategy if criminal charges are eventually filed. One possible defense would be the absence of a specific intent to defraud, which is an essential element of the crime.
Source: ABC News, "Woman Stole Identities From Dating Site Victims by 'Capitalizing on Her Physical Attraction,' Officials Say," Emily Shapiro, May 9, 2016