Two charged with credit union theft

Scheme allegedly used Navy clinic data

Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2010

St. Mary's grand jurors have charged two county residents with stealing from the Navy Federal Credit Union, in a scheme that law officers allege misappropriated the personal information of Navy health clinic patients.

Donna Mason, a 41-year-old Lexington Park woman, worked as a clerk at the front desk of the clinic at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, according to a report by federal investigators. Mason is scheduled to face trial later this month on her theft charge, and a bond hearing was held last week for a second suspect in the case, 43-year-old Marquette Ransom of Lexington Park.

More than $20,000 was stolen in St. Mary's through the scheme, and additional losses occurred elsewhere, St. Mary's Assistant State's Attorney Daniel White said during the court proceeding.

"It is substantial, and it's still growing," White said.

Seventeen clinic patients' personal information was stolen between November 2008 and May 2009, federal authorities reported, and that information was used to access the patients' financial accounts during phone calls to the credit union's operators. The calls resulted in fraudulent fund transfers of $500 or less to Western Union, and the money was picked up at its offices in locations in and around Washington, D.C., and as far away as South Carolina.

The U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service, assisted by St. Mary's detectives, determined that numerous calls had been made from Ransom's phone number to Western Union, and that 55 calls were made early last year from Ransom's phone to the clinic on the Navy base, including 43 to Mason's desk.

The federal investigators determined that most of the people whose personal information was stolen were "high-ranking officers." The credit union issued refunds to the affected customers.

The St. Mary's prosecutor said at last week's court hearing that Ransom previously has been convicted on credit-card theft and drug charges, before he was indicted in July for stealing from the credit union. "Mr. Ransom made himself very difficult to find," White said.

Ransom replied, "Some of that is true, … [but] I knew nothing about this warrant. I have good, strong ties to St. Mary's."

A judge ordered that Ransom remain in custody at the county jail in lieu of a $75,000 cash bond.