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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection | article

A Case of Identity Theft Told in Three Acts

Identity theft can be a very dramatic affair. So, it’s no surprise that many of the key players in high-profile cases of this crime come across as actors. After all, to take someone else’s persona and successfully get away with the crime, a criminal needs to possess the creativity and audacity of a master performer.

Act 1: The first deception
This was definitely the case for former lifestyle magazine editor Bari Nessel. The California native was first hit with 31 criminal charges involving the identity theft of former employee Linda Foley. Nessel had hired Foley to write restaurant reviews and do a little traveling along the state’s southern coast. Having done so at other jobs, Foley willingly gave a copy of her license and Social Security card to Nessel thinking it was standard procedure.

However, instead of filing away Foley’s personal information, Nessel went on a shopping spree. She went on to destroy Foley’s credit score, opening up numerous accounts in her name and leaving thousands of dollars in debt on Foley’s credit report.

Act 2: Setting the stage for new crimes
When initially charged in 1999, the judge spared Nessel jail time in favor of probation, prompting her to pack up and move to Texas. However, Nessel had clearly not learned her lesson. In 2003, she was charged again with criminal fraud after forging fake contracts and swindling a small business out of thousands of dollars. On top of the fraud charges, Nessel was also facing a serious probation violation.

Act 3: The grand finale
The judge was not as kind this time around, and on the last day of the trial, sentenced Nessel to three years and four months in state prison. At the trial, many members of the jury would later claim that they had witnessed master-class acting from the identity thief, who began wailing and pleading with the judge as he read her sentence. A 2004 story in the San Diego Union-Tribune described a scene where Nessel was weeping and shouting much to the shock of those present. The source reports Nessel was claiming that she wouldn’t survive the time behind bars, and eventually clutched her chest before fainting.

Medics found nothing wrong with Nessel when called to the scene, and she still got sent to prison, despite her pleas. Even though Nessel was punished for her crimes, the damage caused by her antics would still plague her victims. After she used Foley’s information to ruin her credit score, Foley explained in her statement to the court that it was now impossible for her to apply for new accounts following her run-in with Nessel.