Woman pleads to theft in scam

Credit union bilked using data from health clinic at Patuxent River NAS

Friday, Dec. 24, 2010

A St. Mary's woman left the county courthouse Wednesday to await her sentencing on a charge from an identity-theft scam, and a second suspect returned to jail after his plea hearing was abruptly halted.

Donna Mason, 41, who worked as a clerk at the health clinic of Patuxent River Naval Air Station, took the personal information of patients and employees, a prosecutor said in court, and Mason gave that information to 43-year-old Marquette Ransom at his Lexington Park home.

St. Mary's Assistant State's Attorney Julie White alleged during Mason's plea hearing that Ransom had used the information to see if the patients and employees had accounts at the Navy Federal Credit Union.

The prosecutor alleged that Ransom repeatedly got the credit union to wire $500 from the accounts to various Western Union offices, and that other people picked up the money for Ransom.

St. Mary's Circuit Judge Michael J. Stamm told Mason that the maximum penalty from her guilty plea to a theft charge is 15 years in prison, but that he follows the sentencing guidelines range in reports by the state division of parole and probation.

"It's somewhere in there your sentence will lie," Stamm said, and he ordered that Mason report to the probation office that day as she remains free on bond and awaits her sentencing hearing. "They're going to go ahead and watch over you," the judge said.

Ransom, who has been in jail since October in lieu of $75,000 bond, was brought into the courtroom moments later. White told the judge that a similar agreement called for Ransom to plead guilty to theft and be released on presentencing supervision.

The prosecutor handed to Stamm a written plea agreement prepared by assistant prosecutor Daniel White.

The judge said he would not accept the binding plea agreement without having time to review the document, and he said the case could be reset for next week.

Ransom was returned to the county jail.

More than $20,000 was stolen in St. Mary's through the scheme, and additional losses occurred elsewhere, Daniel White said at Ransom's bond hearing in October.

Seventeen clinic patients' personal information was stolen between November 2008 and May 2009, according to a report by federal investigators, and the money wired from the accounts was picked up at Western Union 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, noted in its report that most of the people whose personal information was stolen were "high-ranking officers." The credit union issued refunds to the affected customers.