A California woman was sentenced in DuPage County court Tuesday to nine years in prison for her role in an identity theft ring that took at least $184,000 from a dozen victims.
Pamela Keane, 48, pleaded guilty in July to continuing a financial crimes enterprise, forgery and counterfeiting. She claimed she was a homeless drug addict when she was recruited and flown to Illinois to commit the crimes.
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Authorities charged Keane, of Livermore, Calif., and four co-defendants in December 2012 while investigating numerous identity theft complaints involving mostly California victims. During the arrest, Downers Grove police recovered 562 credit cards, 229 drivers licenses, 24 social security cards and dozens of other documents commonly used by identity thieves, state's attorney investigator David Zdan said.
Zdan said surveillance footage from banks in Aurora, Arlington Heights, Elmhurst, Schaumburg and Wheaton, among other suburbs, showed Keane withdrawing or attempting to withdraw large sums of cash from 12 victims' accounts.
In many cases, she was able to conduct the transactions after presenting driver's licenses bearing her photo and the victims' names. In at least one instance, she wore a sling on her arm and told a bank teller her signature wouldn't match because of the injury, according to testimony.
Keane also used one Las Vegas woman's identity to buy and insure a Honda Odyssey in Evanston, authorities said, and opened several department store credit lines in her victims' names.
"(Her partners) called her 'mom' because she coordinated things," Zdan testified.
He said authorities have not recovered the stolen funds and the investigation is ongoing.
Even after her arrest, Keane skipped court and went to Wisconsin in March, withdrawing $25,000 from another California victim's account, Assistant State's Attorney Diane Michalak said in arguing for a 13-year prison term.
"This is not an isolated incident," Michalak said. "She and her crew came from California to Illinois for the sole purpose of committing crimes."
But defense attorney Dean Kekos denied Keane was anything other than a vulnerable pawn caught up in a criminal enterprise.
"What she is, is a homeless person addicted to crystal meth," he said. "This isn't a lifelong career criminal. She isn't the kingpin of this."
In a statement read in court, Keane offered an apology to the victims and asked for probation and drug treatment.
"Before this addiction, I had never stolen anything from anyone," she said. "I'm truly sorry from the bottom of my heart."
DuPage Judge George Bakalis said he didn't believe Keane was a ringleader but it was clear she participated in the ring to "a very great extent." It was probably a "tempting offer" to an addict living on the street, he said.
"To an extent, I believe Ms. Keane was used," Bakalis said.
Keane, who sobbed when the judge sentenced her, was previously convicted of two DUIs and a drug possession charge. By law, she must serve at least 4½ years before she would be eligible for parole. She already has served more than six months of that time in the county jail.