Complex Mail-ID Theft Scheme in Salisbury, MD

In Maryland, Carla Koester was sentenced today for her role in a complex mail identity theft scheme that victimized over 26 individuals, with total losses exceeding $30,000. Koester and her husband stole checks and credit cards from residential mailboxes, and used stolen information to forge checks and commit identity theft. The victims lived across Maryland in Anne Arundel, Dorchester, Somerset, Talbot, and Wicomico counties, as well as in Delaware and Virginia.

The story was reported in The Daily Times here, and is reprinted below.

Woman accused of fraud gets four-year sentence
The Daily Times – 9/23/2011

(SALISBURY, MARYLAND) “A 38-year-old Salisbury woman was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to four years in prison followed by three years of super-vised release for mail fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Carla Nicole Koester pleaded guilty to the charges in late June. According to her plea, from April to August 2010, Koester stole checks and credit cards from homes and mailboxes, altered checks and used them to obtain money from financial institutions across Maryland and goods from commercial retailers, according to court documents.

Koester victimized individuals and financial institutions in Anne Arundel, Dorchester, Somerset, Talbot and Wicomico counties in Maryland, and later expanded to Delaware and Virginia.

According to officials, Koester approached individuals at their homes and inquired whether they needed help.

Detective Jennifer Barnes of the Salisbury Police Department said Koester and her husband performed home improvements.

“They were a husband-and-wife team, and ironically enough, they did very nice work and got referrals,” said Barnes, who was the lead detective on the case within city limits.

Once inside the home, Koester stole checks and other financial instruments. Koester’s husband was never charged.

In other instances, after working in the victims’ homes, Koester later burglarized these homes to obtain checks, cash and credit cards. She also stole checks from resident mail boxes.

Koester either issued the checks to herself and cashed them in her own name, or issued checks from one victim to another victim, and obtained money from banks by using the victim’s name and signature to impersonate the victim, according to court documents.

Additionally, video footage from Walmart captures Koester paying for several items with a fraudulent check.

Koester defrauded at least 26 individuals and 13 financial institutions, stealing more than $30,000.

Koester was taken into police custody on Aug. 23, 2010, after an M&T Bank employee on the western shore reported a forgery to the authorities.

Barnes said the SPD had already been investigating Koester at this point.

“This wasn’t a great big ‘whodunit’ case,” she said. “We knew fairly early on she was our suspect; but the amount of theft she was doing and the fraudulent way she was doing it made it difficult to put everything together.”

For example, Barnes said, Koester would steal one victim’s check and another victim’s mail, gaining access to the second victim’s bank account through routing and account numbers. She would then deposit the first victim’s check into the second victim’s account, and later withdraw the cash. Barnes said there were 30 or 40 instances similar to this scenario just within Salisbury’s city limits.

“Some of the checks were taken from here, and were negotiated in Delaware or Virginia,” she said. “She was all over the place. That’s why the case was tried in federal court.”

Koester is no stranger to the justice system, as she had roughly 13 years of suspended jail time hanging over her head from prior offenses, according to Barnes.”

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