Navy plans hearing in identity theft case

Charged petty officer may be tied to local probe

September 15, 2004|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

A Navy petty officer's charges of making fraudulent purchases and misusing a government computer are tied to an investigation into a Baltimore-area identify theft ring, Baltimore County police said yesterday.

Curtis L. Phillips, 27, is charged with violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice in connection with the alleged theft of naval officers' identities, according to Navy spokesmen.

Phillips, who has been with the Navy for four years, is from the Baltimore area, records show.

The third class petty officer will face an Article 32 hearing - the military equivalent of a grand jury hearing - on Sept. 23, Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Cappy Surette said. He could be court-martialed if the Article 32 finds enough evidence to proceed with the investigation.

Between June and November last year, the identities of about 20 Navy officers aboard the USS George Washington were fraudulently used to purchase expensive vehicles and thousands of dollars in merchandise and gift cards, authorities said.

Phillips is stationed aboard the George Washington, an aircraft carrier based in Norfolk, Va., said Mike Maus, spokesman for the Naval Air Force Atlantic Fleet. The carrier returned in July from a six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf.

Five Baltimore-area men are alleged to have fraudulently used the identities of several Navy officers to obtain credit accounts at stores such as Home Depot and Target. The five men have also been charged with fraudulently using the identities of at least five medical patients who used Quest Diagnostics lab testing.

A Quest employee, Darren G. Rogers, 21, was charged in April with stealing the identities of those medical patients. Baltimore County police said yesterday that they are investigating whether Phillips stole the identities of the Navy officers.

The military violations that Phillips is charged with include larceny of a car, larceny of a motorcycle, making a fraudulent purchase in excess of $100, wrongfully using a government computer and theft, Maus said. He said the charges stem from incidents in October, but he did not provide details.

Authorities are still deciding where to prosecute the men involved in the identity theft ring. Rogers and the four other civilians who were arrested and charged in April in Baltimore County could be prosecuted locally or federally, said county police spokesman Bill Toohey. Some of the illegal purchases were made in Fairfax County, Va.

Phillips could be prosecuted under military law or under civilian law, Maus said.

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