MVA response angers ripped-off psychiatrist Thief got license with stolen checks

February 25, 1992|By Roger Twigg | Roger Twigg,Staff Writer

Dr. Thomas G. Bannister's problems began last August when a robber held up his wife at gunpoint and stole her purse, which contained a checkbook, credit cards and other valuables.

A short time later, someone used the checkbook to obtain a fraudulent identification card from the Motor Vehicle Administration.

Dr. Bannister's name and address appeared on the card, along with a photo of someone else.

The enterprising criminal used the identification card to cash 25 checks drawn on the doctor's bank account. Dr. Bannister did not learn about the scam until his entire bank account -- about $10,000 -- had been drained and he began receiving notices about bounced checks.

Recently, an MVA employee was suspended after investigators linked her to Dontay Carter, an accused killer, who obtained two fraudulent driver's licenses at the MVA's Mondawmin office.

The fraudulent identification card carrying Dr. Bannister's name also was issued at the Mondawmin office.

"I can't believe I'm the only one this has happened to," said an angry Dr. Bannister, who is a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins Hospital. "Obviously something is going on. There has to be some sort of collusion . . . that or amazingly stupid people [working at the MVA]."

Dr. Bannister said he tried to contact MVA officials to find out why the agency issued an identification card with his name and another man's photograph. He called the MVA, but no one ever got back to him with an answer.

Eventually, he was told to mail the agency a letter outlining his complaints and someone would get back to him. The doctor followed up the letter with more phone calls to the MVA headquarters in Glen Burnie and never received an explanation.

A reporter last week asked the MVA about the fraudulent identification card issued in the doctor's name. Marshall Rickert, the MVA's administrator, said the card had been invalidated in the agency's computers.

"The case is closed," Mr. Rickert said, adding: "You get misrepresentations like that every week. Our record is very clear on that. It is not something we condone. It is not something we ignore. We have prosecuted people in the past," the MVA administrator said.

Meanwhile, a crook is roaming around with an identification which says he is Dr. Bannister.

"As far as everyone is concerned, he is me," said the doctor. "It's not like a credit card that they can call to check on. It's good until it expires."

The checks were stolen last August when the doctor's wife was robbed while leaving the Downtown Athletic Club, near Guilford Avenue and Centre Street.

The couple went on vacation and when they returned in September, they discovered that their bank account had been looted. The checks were cashed at restaurants, liquor stores, auto repair shops and other businesses.

Some of the business people later told police they didn't think the suspect, a man about 28 years of age, appeared to be a doctor, but they cashed the checks when he threatened to call his lawyer. After the bank account was emptied, the suspect continued to write more checks.

The bank eventually replaced the money, but the business people who were burned by the bad checks have threatened the doctor with lawsuits. "Every week, I'm getting letters and phone calls on my recorder from people threatening to sue me," Dr. Bannister said. "This will probably haunt me for years and show up in my credit rating."

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