Lawyer: Jet-setters to admit ID fraud

May 12, 2008 8:35:19 PM PDT
Presumably, she didn't fleece Prince Charles. But a brash college student whose life of luxury travel and $2,200 hairdos came crashing down with her arrest on identity-theft charges now admits that many others who crossed her path unwittingly financed the fun.

Jocelyn Kirsch, 22, and her ex-boyfriend Edward K. Anderton, 25, have signed federal plea agreements that will likely send them to prison for several years, her lawyer said Monday. The same day, charges stemming from the $120,000 scheme were moved to federal court.

"He would have brought the brains, the technical know-how. She would have brought the unadulterated greed, and ... seduced him," Philadelphia Detective Terry Sweeney, the lead investigator, said Monday.

Since her arrest, Kirsch's friends and classmates have portrayed her as a serial liar who even reinvented herself when she met the heir to the British throne during his visit to Philadelphia last year; in a favorite myth, she told him she was Lithuanian.

Kirsch, a Drexel University student and the daughter of a North Carolina plastic surgeon, and her Ivy League graduate boyfriend were by then enjoying what U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan called a "year of living dangerously."

He might have said fabulously.

Photos found on their laptops show the alleged grifters smooching under the Eiffel Tower, riding horseback on a beach and flaunting skimpy red swimsuits by a swanky hotel pool. Not bad for a pair of early 20-somethings with a combined income of about $60,000 - his salary at a starter job in real-estate finance.

Not content to join their peers shopping at Ikea, the pair stole credit-card and bank-account information from friends, co-workers and neighbors to finance lavish purchases and trips to Europe and the Caribbean, prosecutors said.

They snatched purses left unattended at their favorite downtown nightclub, broke into neighboring units at their $3,000-a-month Rittenhouse Square apartment and even stole information from colleagues at Anderton's firm and Kirsch's corporate internship, Meehan said.

They initially used the cards to pay for furniture, clothes and salon visits, prosecutors said.

But Anderton, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2005 with an economics degree, soon put his skills to work on the Internet, setting up eBay accounts with the various identities and using them to buy and sell nonexistent goods, authorities said. That scheme alone netted $33,000, Meehan said.

"Customers of Internet auction sites like eBay and PayPal found themselves caught in the defendants' tentacles," he said.

Meanwhile, the couple would call the victims posing as a police officer, college administrator or human resource officer to glean more personal data or suggest the credit cards had been safely found, officials said. That might buy time before they were canceled.

The scheme unraveled when an upscale Philadelphia salon called police to report that a check for Kirsch's $2,250 hair extension job had bounced. About the same time, a neighbor in the building told police that a package had been shipped to her account at a local UPS store - except she had no such account.

Police staked out the store in early December and arrested the couple when they came to claim the package, which contained lingerie from a British retailer.

"They were just so arrogant," Sweeney said. "When you start committing ID theft around the corner from where you live, it's going to come back to haunt you."

State charges against the pair were dismissed Monday, the same day federal authorities filed charges by way of an information, which often indicate a defendant's cooperation. Police know of at least 16 victims, Meehan said.

Kirsch, who signed her plea agreement Friday, will plead guilty to two counts of aggravated identity theft, money laundering, bank fraud and other charges, her lawyer, Ronald Greenblatt, said. The charges carry a mandatory two-year minimum and a guideline range of about five years.

She is living with her mother in Novato, Calif., while Anderton is back home with his family in Everett, Wash.

Their relationship - which Meehan called "as much criminal as romantic" - is over.

"She's supposed to be graduating college now, and instead she's going to be going down to federal court in a few weeks and entering a plea," Greenblatt said.

Anderton also signed a plea deal, Greenblatt said. His lawyer, Larry Krasner, did not return messages left with The Associated Press on Monday.

Kirsch plans to serve her time, repay her victims and try to sort through recent events, Greenblatt said.

Identity theft has struck more than 6 million Americans, and about one in 20 U.S. households, the FBI said.

"No one takes pleasure in seeing two bright, young people with promising futures end up in this place," said Janice Fedarcyk, the FBI's special agent-in-charge in Philadelphia. "But let's be careful not to glamorize their crime because of their youth and their status."