10 Most Shocking Cases of Identity Theft Of All Time
You’ve probably know a bit about stolen identities, but it goes way beyond stolen credit cards. Just imagine what it’s like to find out your child is an imposter! This is 10 Sickening Cases of Identity Theft!
10 Dead Mother
It’s a tragic fact of life that you’ll probably live through your parents’ deaths. But if there’s one way to shred any sympathy people have, it’s using your deceased mother’s identity to defraud the government. For Thomas Prusik-Parkin, that was apparently the next logical step. In a plot somewhere between Psycho and America’s Dumbest Criminals, Prusik-Parkin actually dressed up as his 73-year-old mother Irene – wig and everything – to continue claiming social security. And that’s not to mention the $2.2 million New York townhouse that she left behind. Prusik-Parkin carried on the charade from 2003 to 2009, but he was eventually rumbled when his mom’s house went into foreclosure and he claimed the new buyers would be living in his home illegally. To get it back, he arranged a meeting with the already suspicious District Attorney at the house, where they found him wearing a red cardigan, lipstick, manicured nails and breathing through an oxygen tank. It’s not hard to see how he got 12 years in prison after that move.
9 College Scammer
Esther Reed is quite the character. Like most serial scammers she had a major rap sheet, but she was known for stealing identities so she could go to university. At least you can admire her desire for education, unless she just really liked the college lifestyle. Regardless, in 2004 Reed found the identity of Brooke Henson online, a 20-year-old South Carolina woman who went missing in 1999. Despite the fact that Henson was a High School dropout, Reed used the name to get admitted to both Harvard and Columbia Universities. But when Reed applied for a part-time job under Henson’s name, the interviewer looked her up and found her namesake was missing. So he did what anyone would do and called the police. They concluded that Reed was in fact Henson but she just didn’t want to see her family. But one savvy detective demanded a blood test – at which point Reed agreed and promptly bolted. It wasn’t until January 2008, after she made the Secret Service most wanted list, that she willingly confessed all the way over in Chicago.
8 Fake Doctor
So it’s one thing to steal an identity, but it’s a whole other level to impersonate the same person and get caught not once, not twice, but three separate times. It all started in 1976 for Gerald Barnbaum, when he decided to take the easy route to a cushy doctor job after losing his pharmacist license. Instead of medical school, he found an actual doctor by the name of Gerald Barnes, legally changed his name and just straight up asked the California Medical Board to send him copies of ‘his’ qualifications. With that, he found a job and played doctor, which went fine until 1980 when he missed a patient’s untreated diabetes and took the blame for his death two days later. After he served his time, he tried the doctor thing again in 1984 under the same name, but he was caught and sentenced to 3 years behind bars. It wasn’t until he found another job at a Los Angeles health clinic in 1995 that he was finally imprisoned for life just one year later. You have to wonder why he kept at it, but you can’t teach an old doc new tricks I guess.
7 Reliving High School
Crime isn’t always malicious. Sometimes it’s just about exorcising your personal demons, like in the case of Wendy Brown. Honestly this one is as depressing as it is creepy. The Wisconsin mother didn’t exactly have the best childhood. She had an abusive relationship with her mother, which led to a speech impediment and bullying at school. And to make matters worse, she got pregnant and dropped out of high school at age 17, all the while seeing her sister flourish as a cheerleader. So you can see why might have pined for some good ol’ days of her own. But in 2008, the 33-year-old took matters a little bit too far when she used the birth certificate of her 15-year-old out-of-state daughter to enroll at her local high school. Brown took classes with teens less than half her age, tried out as a cheerleader and even attended a pool party with her classmates without getting rumbled. But the jig was up after 2 weeks when teachers reported her truant and found her in police custody over a separate forgery charge. Brown was sentenced to 3 years in a psychiatric institution, but on the bright side for her, she did use that time to finally get her high school diploma.
It has to be a pain to get a phone call at home asking to make bail for someone. But it’s just baffling when that call is to bail out, uh, yourself. In 2007, 20-year-old Floridian Brittany Ossenfort got a call from Orange County Sheriff’s Office asking for the cash to get none other than Brittany Ossenfort out of the slammer. But in reality, this ‘Brittany’ was actually Michele, Ossenfort’s transgendered former roommate – known by the state as Richard Lester Phillips. Michele contacted Brittany from jail after she was caught offering oral sex to an undercover police officer for $30. And to make matters worse she used her old friend’s name on the police report. As if that wasn’t embarrassing enough for the young woman, she had to deal with some very annoying long-term consequences too. For one, her name and information was on the police website for a whole week, but even worse, the police couldn’t alter the details of the report on their system, meaning in the eyes of the law she was arrested for soliciting sexual acts. Now Ossenfort has to carry documents with her at all times to prove she isn’t a prostitute, just in case she’s ever actually arrested.
5 Revenge Exhibition
Like so many people, Albuquerque photographer Jessamyn Lovell had her identity stolen in 2010, when her wallet was taken outside a San Francisco art gallery. Lovell had to deal with a spate of bills and citations, as well as a possible laundry list of crimes like petty theft, parking tickets and property damage. Once she had cleared herself through the normal channels, she hired a private investigator to find the culprit, a woman named Erin Hart, and tail her over the course of 2 years. But instead of just leaving it to the law, Lovell decided to handle things in her own way by hosting an exhibition at the same gallery where her wallet was stolen and actually inviting Hart. The exhibition displayed shots of the thief going about her business along with the details of how Lovell had cleared herself of the crimes committed in her name. But as far as the photographer knows, the subject never appeared to face her victim. Could you really blame her?
4 Meth Baby
You’d be surprised how many kinds of information people will steal. It’s not just finances and travel documents, medical identity theft is a very real problem for some people – including Anndorie Sachs. The mother of 2 from Salt Lake City got a call from Utah Child Protective Services in 2006 saying that her newborn baby was positive for Methamphetamines. That meant all of her kids would be taken away. But there’s just one problem – Sachs hadn’t been pregnant in over 2 years. The authorities took some convincing, despite there being no baby in sight. They even interviewed Sachs’ boss over her child’s meth exposure, which isn’t great for the resume. It turns out that a woman named Dorothy Moran had stolen Sachs’ Driver’s License and gave birth under her name, not to mention her insurance. But the worst long term effect could be to the victim’s medical records, since Moran’s incorrect blood type was listed for Sachs and spread across the entire US medical system. That nearly risked the 27-year-old’s life when she was sent to hospital with a blood clotting condition. In a morbid twist, had the baby not tested positive for drugs, Sachs would never have known to check the records and may have risked death from a mismatching transfusion.
3 Political Assassination
Normally when people wake up to find their identities stolen, they’re on the hook for something along the lines of credit card fraud, maybe some hacking. But as damaging as that can be, it doesn’t have quite the same potential for trouble as being implicated in an international political assassination. That was the case after Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh, a senior official in Palestinian Islamic Fundamentalist group Hamas, was found dead in his Dubai Hotel room with a bottle of Medicine by his side. While originally thought to be natural, accusations quickly turned to the Israeli national intelligence agency Mossad. The killers used the passport details of 26 Israeli dual-citizens from mostly European countries, like British born Paul John Keeley, to cover their tracks in killing Al-Mabhouh. Israel initially denied any involvement, but Mossad’s chief Tamir Pardo later promised to never again use British passports in operations. Luckily for those initial suspects, their Governments had their backs. But there was a real possibility that they would have to prove their innocence in an international scandal.
2 The Chameleon
There aren’t many more traumatic experiences than your son going missing. So imagine the feeling of having him returned – only to find out that he’s an imposter 7 years the real son’s senior. That was the earthshaking realization for Beverly Dollarhide in 1998, after her family was targeted by the Chameleon, AKA Frederic Bourdin. The French trickster has a prolific history of over 500 impersonations, but in his most famous scam he took on the identity of missing 14-year-old Nicholas Barclay in late 1997. 23-year-old Bourdin called a missing children’s center in Virginia and asked for records of any teenagers matching his own features. He then claimed to have found that child in Spain. But since Bourdin had the wrong colored eyes and accent, he convinced his new-old family that he had been in a French child-prostitution ring that chemically altered his eyes. Things went well enough for Bourdin at first, but they quickly unraveled as he struggled to cope with the situation and was submitted for psychiatric evaluation after mutilating his own face. But the facade finally cracked when a private investigator Charlie Parker confronted Bourdin leading to Bourdin’s arrest and a 6-year prison sentence. But that isn’t even close to the end of the Chameleon’s tale. All I can say is look him up.
1 False Child Pornography Arrest
In 2004 Simon Bunce from Hampshire, England was falsely tarred with society’s worst possible brush after being arrested on charges of possessing child pornography – despite owning nothing of the sort. In a life-altering and unfortunate tale, he became one of the nearly 4,000 arrests in Operation Ore – the UK’s largest ever crackdown on the crime. It followed an American exercise that took down the porn payment-processing company Landslide Productions, which just happened to have Bunce’s credit card on file. When that came to light, Bunce lost his $250,000 a year job and pretty much everyone in his life cut off ties with him. That was except for his wife, who believed his innocence. After doing some sleuthing of his own through the American Freedom of information act, he found that his credit card had been used to make the purchase around the world in Indonesia at the very same time that he was using it at a London restaurant. That, combined with the fact that his computer came back completely clean, was more than enough to exonerate him and reunite the family, but it just shows what can happen if you’re not careful with your card.
That was 10 cases of identity theft that will make your skin crawl. Which one scared you the most? Let us know in the comments.