Tuesday, November 22, 2011
North Miami, FL - Community Agency Worker Is Accused Of Selling Holocaust Survivors' ID Information
Identity theft may have reached a new low over the weekend when an employee of a Jewish community organization was arrested on charges of selling Holocaust survivors' identity information for a sum of $1,000.
Crystal Thorne, 23, who worked as a coordinator at the Jewish Community Services of South Florida office in North Miami, was arrested Saturday on identity theft charges. She remains in custody after making her first appearance Monday in Miami federal court.
South Florida is among the nation's hot spots for identity theft, with crooks using personal information for all kinds of fraud, including credit card, health care and tax refund rackets, authorities say. But the Thorne case is a first.
Thorne's job gave her direct access to the personal information of clients - names, addresses, dates of birth and Social Security numbers - who regularly seek help from the Holocaust Survivors Assistance Program, according to federal prosecutor Diane Patrick. Thorne was arrested after she offered to sell the allegedly stolen Holocaust victims' IDs to a confidential police informant, who told her that he wanted to use them for a tax refund scam.
According to an affidavit filed with her arrest warrant, this is how the undercover operation quickly unfolded:
On Friday, a North Miami Beach police detective contacted the Secret Service about a "cooperating informant" who wanted to provide information for an ID theft investigation. The informant said Thorne had already given him "five samples of the identities" of her clients at Jewish Community Services of South Florida.
All five samples were on sheets titled, "Jewish Community Services of South Florida/Holocaust Survivors Assistance Program," according to the affidavit.
That day, the informant contacted Thorne by phone and recorded their conversation under the direction of the Secret Service. She told the informant that she had 30 identifications at her residence and agreed to sell them for $1,000, the affidavit said.
On Saturday, the informant met with Thorne in the parking lot of a Kmart in North Miami Beach. The informant, who recorded the meeting, was carrying $1,000 in marked currency.
Thorne, who was carrying a manila envelope, got into the informant's car. Thorne gave the informant the envelope, which contained 32 sheets of identity information from the Jewish Community Services of South Florida, the affidavit said. The informant then gave her the cash.
The recorded conversation indicated the (confidential informant) informed Thorne he would use the identities for tax return fraud and let Thorne know if they worked," according to the affidavit by Secret Service agent Joseph Walsh, with the South Florida Organized Fraud Task Force.
Once Thorne exited the informant's car, both were detained.
After she was given a Miranda warning on her rights, Thorne signed a statement saying she obtained "these stolen sheets of identity information from her employment at the Jewish Community Services of South Florida." She also stated she had provided ID sheets to the informant in the past.
Thorne said she gave the informant the ID sheets "in hopes of getting a couple of dollars.