Tuesday, October 12, 2004
Carmel on the Case: Stolen Identities
Imagine if somebody else claimed to be you. Cashed money in your name, applied for credit cards in your name, destroyed your entire reputation. Identity theft has become such a major crime in Florida that we now rank sixth in the nation with more than 10,000 victims a year. In tonight's - Carmel On The Case - the story of one of those victims and the chance for you to help catch the crook.
(WSVN) -- Her Florida drivers license identifies Maricruz Villegas. But this is not Maricruz.
The impostor used her identity to first get a credit card and then later - take out a $50,000 home equity loan.
Detective Yolanda Lombrage: "She could have lost her house. Det. David Colon: And the emotional trauma that she goes through is just unbearable. It's just not right."
Miami Dade detectives Yolanda Lombrage and David Colon are determined to find the woman who stole Maricruz's identity because they are certain she will try again.
Detective Yolanda Lombrage: "This was so easy for her to do, she will do it again. The question is when and to who."
Detective Colon interpreted for the real Maricruz.
Detective David Colon: "She wondered how this person got a hold of the title for the house because the house is already paid off."
The detectives say bogus pay stubs were created for the home equity loan.
The employer shown is Hidden Beauty, a business Maricruz owned years ago in Colombia.
But that's just part of the mystery of how the thief took her good name and good credit.
Detective David Colon: "I don't understand how a person be so evil."
The mortgage company issued two checks to the impostor.
Detective Yolanda Lombrage: "And just like that, she put her initials on the lines, got two separate checks in excess of $24,000 dollars and she walked away."
Maricruz found out about the loan when she got a foreclosure threat after no payments were made.
Maricruz Villegas: "No - I can't believe it."
Detective David Colon: "She screamed. Maricruz Villegas" Yeah - sure."
But now the real Maricruz can relax and enjoy her condo again.
Once it became clear to the mortgage company that this was not the same woman who applied for the loan - it closed the file. But the case against the impostor is very much open and active and the detectives hope you can help.
If you know this person's name or anything about her - you can call detective Yolanda Lombrage at 305-994-1084 or if you want to remain anonymous you can contact CrimeStoppers at 305-471-TIPS.
Detective Yolanda Lombrage: "And I will do everything in my power to make sure this woman does time in jail because she deserves it."
Now you're probably wondering how a home equity loan was written without an on site appraisal of the property. The detectives say the impostor was such a smooth operator - she convinced the lender to loan the money without it.
For more information, or if you have a story for Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or in Broward at 954-921-CLUE
Detective Yolanda Lombrage