The 8 Creepiest Cases of Identity Theft of All Time
Identity theft is one of the most widely committed crimes in the world, affecting millions of people a year in varying degrees of severity, ranging from a few unwanted pizzas on your credit card bill to landing on an international watch list for political assassins. Sometimes the crimes are so elaborate and the consequences are so strange and unpredictable that it almost makes us want to cancel all our credit cards, forfeit all our licenses and live in a hole in the earth with pillowcases full of cash, surviving entirely on boiled tree roots and stale urine.
Brittany Ossenfort Gets Arrested
Living with a roommate is almost always tough. What you save on rent and groceries you lose on alone time, a lack of policing on your around-the-house nudity and a general sense of security; there's another person here who has keys and knows exactly when you sleep.
But Brittany Ossenfort thought she was past all that, and with good reason. She and her roommate, Michelle, had met through mutual friends (which is like the center tile of "Please Don't Be a Creepy Murderer" bingo), and became good friends themselves. Sure, Brittany thought it was a bit strange when Michelle started to dress like her, and had her hair dyed and styled to match Brittany's. And when Michelle got a matching tattoo on her hand, yes, a few alarm bells were probably clanging around somewhere in the back of Brittany's mind, sort of like when you get an emoticon-filled picture comment from a stranger on Facebook whose profile image is him cleaning a knife. Still, their friendship and cohabitation continued on undaunted for a year.
How soon the lessons of Single White Female are forgotten.
That all changed when Brittany Ossenfort got a call at work asking her to bail Brittany Ossenfort out of jail. Brittany briefly entertained the idea that she might be Timecopping herself, but tossed that out the window when investigators did some actual investigating and discovered that the "Brittany Ossenfort" in custody was actually Michelle, who had been arrested on prostitution charges and had given Brittany's name and information to the police. Even more sleuthing by these crackerjack investigators uncovered the fact that Michelle's real name was Richard Phillips.
Richard. Otherwise known as "Dick." Otherwise known as she used to have one.
Michelle/Richard was a transgender woman who had been living as a woman for as long as Brittany had known her. Unfortunately, even after her identity was cleared up and the police were able to agree that the real Brittany was not, in fact, the person they had arrested, Brittany's name could not be removed from the arrest record. Apparently, once an inmate is booked into a facility, whatever name that person is booked under cannot be changed or amended for any reason, even if they had their identity stolen, or had been Timecopped.
"My name? It's uh, last name 'Cop,' first name 'Time.' And they're both italicized."
Luckily, Brittany has paperwork that she can carry around with her at all times should she ever get stopped by the police.
Anndorie Sachs Has a Baby
Anndorie Sachs was a mother of four enrolled at the University of Utah when she received a call from a gravely serious Child Protective Services representative informing her that she was under investigation because her newborn baby had tested positive for methamphetamines. Sachs was confused by this information, because as far as she knew, she hadn't given birth in years and had never taken methamphetamines (two things that tend to stick out in a person's memory).
"Honey, did you start taking meth and then give birth?" "No to the baby. Maybe to the meth."
When she told CPS as much, they refused to believe her, and began an in-depth investigation into her life, questioning her employers and her family, and even interrogating the four kids she had who weren't shrouded in mystery (apparently their "in-depth" investigation included scaring and intimidating young children, but not a DNA test or a medical exam). All the while, they were threatening to declare her an unfit, drug-addicted mother and take her children away.
As the investigation dragged on, it came to light that Sachs' car had recently been broken into, and her driver's license had been stolen. The thief was a pregnant meth addict who took the stolen license and marched it to the local hospital to give birth under Sachs' identity, even putting Sachs' name on the birth certificate before strolling back out into the world to continue not giving one haggard shit about the life she'd just farted into existence.
Feast your eyes on the horrors of a meth addict's meticulously clean, well-furnished kitchen.
Even after this was discovered, Social Services was still unwilling to accept that Sachs wasn't the mother, though to their credit, they finally did a DNA test to prove once and for all that she wasn't. Unfortunately, for some baffling reason the hospital was still intent on sticking Sachs with the $10,000 bill for the birth (remember, that's the birth of a child who wasn't hers by a woman she didn't know). And the battle to clear her medical records may never end, because if you become a victim of medical identity theft, your personal information can be changed by the person who stole your identity. So if Meth Teeth McGee told the hospital her blood type was B, that's what Sachs' records will say from now on. More time, money and vigilance have been put into protecting Battle.net accounts than personal medical information.
"People with babies can't lie. Everyone knows that."
Nicole McCabe Assassinates a War Criminal
Nicole McCabe, an Australian woman who had been living in Israel with her husband for two and half years, was six months pregnant and happily awaiting the birth of her baby when she heard over the radio that she was one of 26 people implicated in the assassination of Hamas chief Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who was wanted by the Israeli government for murder and arms dealing. Mahmoud had been smothered to death with a pillow in his hotel room in Dubai (always a 26-man job). Despite the fact that McCabe had not left Israel in over six months (and that trip had been to Australia, not Dubai), Interpol happily added this 27-year-old pregnant lady to their most-wanted list for murdering a high-ranking war criminal with her bare hands.
"This is so sweet of you, but do you think we can make it quick? I have a murder appointment at 7."
Further investigation linked the assassination to Mossad, an elite Israeli covert force made famous by Eric Bana in Munich. In order to have access to al-Mabhouh and not be sprayed with bullets like Sonny Corleone on an infinite loop the instant they set foot in the airport, Mossad stole the passports of 26 individuals with clean records and gave them to their assassins to enter Dubai. Nicole McCabe's was just one of the passports they swiped.
"That's the one. Her eyes say 'I could kill a motherfucker,' but her hair says 'I'd rather party'."
When the plan was uncovered, however, McCabe and her fellow victims were left holding the bag. She received no help from the Australian embassy or the international community whatsoever, beyond being issued a new passport number to "protect her privacy." For all she knows, some vengeful hit squad could be waiting to car bomb her to the moon for a crime she had no part of. Even worse, her passport was never actually physically stolen -- all the information was gathered from another source somewhere in the system, meaning there was absolutely nothing she could have done to prevent it.
Harrun Majeed Buys Some Pizza
Harrun Majeed, a 14-year Navy veteran working toward a degree at a community college, drove out to the local Publix supermarket to buy his son a birthday cake, because when you live in a town that has a Publix, your birthday cake options are limited to either buying one from the Publix or baking one from couch stuffing and a jar of fresh tears. When he got home, he realized he had dropped his credit card somewhere along the way, and immediately got on the phone with his bank to report the loss and cancel the card.
"My last purchase? Sexy butt toys. But if you see any charges for lube, that's someone else."
However, the bank informed Majeed that his card had already been used in the time since he lost it to buy two pizzas from a restaurant in the same shopping center as the Publix, for a total of about $40. Clearly, he had dropped the card in the parking lot, and somebody had picked it up and instantly splurged on pizzas in celebration of their good fortune. Majeed called the police as soon as he got off the phone to report the fraud, and the cops drove out to the restaurant to find that, incredibly, the culprit was still there, waiting for the pizzas he had ordered.
"I believe human mortals call this a 'prank.' I also urinated on one of their child creatures."
The thief was Dr. Richard Ludwig, a dentist who was in town for his son's baseball tournament. Ludwig had a personal net worth of about $3 or 4 million, and $250 cash in his wallet at the time of his arrest for using someone else's credit card to buy two large pizzas for 40 goddamned bucks. He even signed the credit card slip with his own fucking name. It's like he was daring the police to try and explain anything he was doing.
Gah! Man, there is no way that psycho doesn't collect the teeth that he pulls.
He was charged with three felonies that could land him in jail for up to 15 years. Worse, he got called a "stupid dickhead" by a comedy website.
You're a stupid dickhead, guy.
Carolyn Owlett Has an Affair
British pop star, model and producer Carolyn Owlett got a surprise when she was contacted by a strange man who professed his undying love for her, and insisted with equal candor that she loved him as well. Regis Remacle, a 28-year-old from Belgium, had first sent her a bizarre message over Facebook, then chased her through a London subway station before finally showing up at her office (which are all charming and practical ways to show a girl that you really care). Clearly, Remacle was a delusional stalker, and Owlett threatened to call the police, because apparently harassing her over the Internet and shadowing her through a subterranean witness vacuum hadn't already crossed that line.
"Yeah, you unlock that door, baby. Unlock it slow, and call it 'uncle' lock."
What stopped her was Remacle's genuine confusion, and as the two began to talk, she discovered that he had carried on a 17-month romance over the Internet with a woman he believed was Owlett. He showed her thousands of pictures that she had supposedly sent him (all of which were real, actual photos of Owlett from her private Facebook page and those of her friends and family), along with emails and chats that they had supposedly had. Owlett was baffled, as she had never spoken to Remacle before in any fashion and couldn't explain how anyone could have given him the photographs he had, outside of a masturbation genie.
To be fair, "masturbation genie" and "Internet" are functional synonyms.
As it turns out, the real culprit was a 21-year-old Belgian woman named Kristella Erbicella, who had created a Facebook page in Owlett's name. She'd hacked photos from Owlett's account and doctored others she found online, and had even managed to dupe some of Owlett's former bandmates into accepting her as a friend to make the whole thing seem legit. Erbicella had even found photos of Owlett's young son and posted them on her page, claiming to be his mother.
When Owlett and Remacle confronted Erbicella, she admitted her elaborate ruse and offered both a hasty, pathetic apology before deleting every email and social network account attached to her name and disappearing back into the troll mist of the Internet.
"Do you think we'll ever see Master Troll again, Father?" "Son, if we do, it'll be too late for us both."
Rosa Vargas Gets Married
In terms of the stress involved in wedding preparation, obtaining a marriage license usually ranks in between choosing the font for the invitations and figuring out whether or not you can use Masters of the Universe figures as your cake toppers. You go to court, sign some forms, pay a small fee, and that's it. Everything's nice and legal.
At least that's all Rosa Vargas of Queens, New York, was expecting when she filed her application for a marriage license in 2004. So imagine her surprise when she found out -- three weeks before her wedding, no less -- that the application had been rejected by the City Clerk's Office because they found that she was already married to two other men, one in Mexico and one in Ecuador.
"OK, that looks great. Now, let's bring in the other husbands and get a group shot."
Undaunted, Vargas and her fiance simply went to a different jurisdiction to get their license and got married anyway, because the whole "I've already got two husbands" thing had to just be some kind of clerical error. At least that's what they thought until about five years later, when Vargas was served divorce papers from an Ecuadorian man she had never met.
She refused to sign the papers, but the man persisted. He showed up at her mother-in-law's doorstep and would not be persuaded until she showed him a picture of Vargas' wedding day, in which the man could clearly see that he was in no way represented.
That's her with her actual husband ... who we're pretty sure the stranger decided he could not best in mortal combat.
You see, Vargas had lost her birth certificate about 16 years earlier, and over time her name and information had been used by two different women in two different marriages, most likely as a type of immigration scam (Vargas is a U.S. citizen, and if the docudrama Green Card is to be believed, you can marry a U.S. citizen to become one yourself).
Vargas was eventually able to get the phony marriages nullified by a judge, but has since found herself married to a third stranger somewhere on Long Island. Her name has subsequently been banned from the Bed Bath & Beyond gift registry.
And that's how she got the name Steven Seagal.
Simon Bunce Buys Pornography
Simon Bunce was a former RAF pilot and successful business executive living in England. But in March 2004, he was arrested as part of Operation Ore, a massive British police crackdown on child pornography that also nabbed high-profile names like Pete Townshend of the Who and Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack (we cannot fathom how they missed naming it Operation the Who Massive Attack Little Children). While it might be kind of awesome to share a jail cell with Keith Richards and Iggy Pop for getting into a knife fight with a heroin dealer, we imagine the gritty coolness of rock star debauchery is somewhat diminished if you're sitting on a metal bench with a deaf guy and a glorified house music DJ for downloading pictures of a 3-year-old in a crotchless sailor suit.
"Are there any children in the audience? I'll have to ask you to move back 500 feet, please."
After police showed up at his home with a search warrant, Bunce was taken into custody while his computer equipment and other personal possessions were confiscated. To make matters even worse, Bunce was immediately fired from his high-paying job and was essentially disowned by his entire family except for his wife, which says something either very good or extraordinarily bad about her character.
Since the local police weren't in a terrible rush to clear Bunce's name, he did a little investigating of his own. He discovered that in 1999, his credit card information was stolen from an online shopping site, then used by someone in Indonesia to purchase child porn from an American website. Ironically, he found all this out using the United States' Freedom of Information Act, information that American authorities (along with everyone else) has access to at any time, meaning the sale of the child porn was tracked and nobody did anything about it. Cross-checking the information he collected with his own records, Bunce was able to prove that at the same time he was supposedly buying the child porn, he was at a restaurant in London.
"Our specials today are chicken Parmesan, blackened sea bass and child pornography."
After enduring six months of child-diddling suspicion, Bunce was told by police that they would not be bringing formal charges, as they did not find any incriminating images on any of the items they'd confiscated from him. Bunce has since reconciled with some of his family and found a new, albeit much lower-paying job. He has also sworn off credit cards and pays with cash as much as possible, because as we all know, the best way to alleviate suspicion is to erase your credit identity and deal exclusively with untraceable currency.
"If a man with a trench coat in a dark alley doesn't sell it, I don't need it."
An Undercover Agent Moves In
In Wichita, Kansas, a man walked into a police station and told the cops that he was an undercover agent who had recently assumed the identity of a local homeowner, and he gave them the address of the house he was currently occupying. Therefore, should anyone call to report him as an impostor or allege that he had broken into the house in question, the police would have no need to investigate, as he had already come by to explain his situation (sharp readers will notice this as Chapter 4 of Bulletproof Plans That Will Totally Work). The cops selected one of the innumerable things about this statement that didn't make sense and sent a unit to the address he had given them to see what the hell was going on.
"Oh, and if someone reports a murder, just ignore it. It's all a part of my stakeout."
They found the same man (the "undercover agent" from before) living there under the original homeowner's identity, just like he told them he was doing. He had gotten new credit cards, set up phone service and purchased a few flat screen TVs and computers, all in the homeowner's name. He'd even invited several neighbors over for gatherings, using the original homeowner's name as his own, and none of them thought anything of it. The few neighbors who hadn't actually met him just assumed that he and his wife had purchased the home from the original owner and had just moved in as new additions to the neighborhood. The secret agent and his wife had even used the homeowner's name to take out a second mortgage.
"I could have sworn you two were black. Hm. You must have that thing Michael Jackson had."
As it turns out, the homeowner had been gone for several months, caring for his mother who had fallen seriously ill in another town. While he was gone, the "undercover agent" and his wife had literally stolen his house and his name, and then changed the locks and set up a new mailbox before inexplicably going to the police and exposing their crime.
Chris Holmes roams the Internet as the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. You can catch him on his website or on Twitter. Amanda blogs at A Spoonful of Bacon and, according to her mother, tweets too often as @amandahahn.
For more bizarre crimes we wouldn't wish on anybody, check out The 5 Creepiest Unsolved Crimes Nobody Can Explain and The 5 Most Horrifying Crimes Committed by Senior Citizens.