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Published: Monday, 7/14/2008

Identity theft: former Drexel U. student admits $116,000 fraud

ASSOCIATED PRESS

PHILADELPHIA A 22-year-old woman will probably face six years in prison after admitting Monday that she and her boyfriend pulled off a brazen identity-theft scheme that funded trips, fancy dinners and expensive salon visits.

Travel photos show Jocelyn Kirsch and ex-beau Edward Anderton, a onetime Ivy League swimmer, posing in matching red swimsuits by a luxury hotel pool and kissing near the Eiffel Tower. But in court Monday, the petite Kirsch sported a rumpled green prison uniform as she pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft and other federal crimes.

The counts carry a two-year minimum sentence, but prosecutors expect her to get about six years under federal guidelines.

Kirsch, speaking barely above a whisper, declined the judge's offer to comment after her plea. She did disclose that she has been receiving counseling and medication for mental health issues.

Kirsch and Anderton, 25, acknowledge they stole the identities of friends and neighbors in the Philadelphia area in 2006 and 2007 to net more than $116,000 in goods and services and tried to obtain twice that.

"She and Edward Anderton stole the identities from numerous people from all walks of their lives, from co-workers to neighbors, anyone that they encountered," Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Lappen said afterward.

Police found evidence of their trips in dozens of digital photos on their laptop computers. The scheme unraveled when an employee at an upscale city salon told police that a check for Kirsch's $2,250 hair extension job had bounced. About the same time, a neighbor of Kirsch and Anderton told police that a package that she did not order had been sent to her.

A federal prosecutor called the high-flying pair "the poster children for identity fraud." Kirsch maintains that she or her family legitimately funded some or most of the international trips, lawyer Ronald Greenblatt said.

Kirsch, a former Drexel University student, is the daughter of a North Carolina plastic surgeon and lived until last month with her mother in Northern California, where prosecutors say she continued to engage in identity theft while awaiting court appearances in Pennsylvania.

Anderton, a University of Pennsylvania graduate originally from Everett, Wash., pleaded guilty last month to the same six counts, which include bank fraud and money laundering.

Lappen said Monday that the probable sentencing range is about five years for Anderton. Kirsch could get more prison time because of the California conduct, which could negate credit for acceptance of responsibility, he said.

The pair deployed an increasingly sophisticated set of schemes to obtain more than $116,000 in goods and services and tried to obtain at least another $122,000 more, prosecutors said.

Kirsch is being sentenced on Oct. 17. Anderton's sentencing date is Sept. 19.



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