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Stolen mail fuels credit scheme

A Zephyrhills woman is accused of raiding mailboxes and usurping IDs.

By ANDREW J. SKERRITT
Published February 23, 2007


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Tonya Michelle Adams made a habit of checking other people's mail - only she wasn't doing it to help them, authorities said.

According to Pasco County sheriff's investigators, the 29-year-old Zephyrhills resident stole mail from boxes in Dade City and Zephyrhills as part of an extensive identity theft and credit card fraud scheme that began in December. Investigators say she stole the identities of six to 10 victims, and think there might be more.

Investigators from the sheriff's economic crimes unit also found Adams with mail belonging to victims in New Port Richey. Authorities say she made fraudulent credit card purchases in both east and west Pasco.

After her arrest, Adams, of 33718 Isabelle Drive, told detectives she recorded the victims' Social Security numbers, telephone numbers, credit card and other financial information on envelopes and stored them in a notebook.

"She had her stuff together," said Sgt. Bill Moltzan, head of the economic crimes unit.

She said she shared the victims' stolen information with others.

"She knew people's password; she knew people's balances," Moltzan said. Adams had access to more than $20,000 in the accounts, he said.

She also stole one victim's box of replacement checks and had fraudulent credit card applications and about a dozen W-2s when she was picked up, deputies said.

"She knew what you made, who was your employer," Moltzan said. "She was pretty slick the way she did it."

Investigators think Adams concocted the scheme to pay for a drug habit. She was found with prescription drugs, hydromorphone and hydrocodone, the report said.

Adams was charged with six counts of identity theft, four counts of grand theft, two drug charges, one count of forgery and two counts of burglary. She was being held at the county jail in Land O'Lakes in lieu of more than $80,000 bail.

As part of the sheriff's investigation, a detective saw Adams taking mail from a mailbox on Sweetwater Road in Dade City as she sat in a Ford truck on Valentine's Day.

Deputies also found a $1,000 check taken earlier from the Sweetwater Road address. Adams said she had planned to cash it at a local bank when she was arrested, the report said. She also ran up $1,300 in credit card purchases in the man's name, the report stated.

Moltzan said the thefts mostly occurred in rural areas where neighbors can't keep an eye on each other's mailboxes.

"There are other victims out there," he said.

If you suspect that you are a victim of identity theft, check with your bank and credit card companies before you call the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, Moltzan said.

"It could happen to anybody who was paying by mail," Moltzan said.

[Last modified February 22, 2007, 23:26:29]


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