MONTGOMERY CRIME

Police Suspect Another 'Wig Lady' in Bank Scam

By Steve Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Washington area might not have seen the last of the "Wig Ladies," police said yesterday.

The tale of well-dressed women disguised in wigs, scarves and hats in a scam to steal more than $300,000 from bank accounts in the Washington area captured headlines last year.

On Nov. 20, police in Boston arrested a Wig Lady suspect, Carol Silva, 54, hiding in a closet. A second Wig Lady suspect, Jacqueline Elaine Jones-Belim, 46, was indicted in Greenbelt that week. Both are being held on federal charges that include bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.

But police think there might be at least one more Wig Lady on the loose, working as part of a ring that has run scams in Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York and, more recently, Montgomery and Prince George's counties, Richmond and Baltimore.

In addition, the man police think is the ringleader, 57-year-old Charles Belim, husband of Jacqueline Jones-Belim, remains at large.

In December, SunTrust Bank told Montgomery detectives that three branches had been defrauded in an identity-theft scheme.

A woman posing as a SunTrust account holder used checks from three pickpocket victims to withdraw more than $7,000 from two branches in Rockville and one in Bowie on Nov. 9 and 10.

"She wore glasses and had gray hair, which looked very much like a wig," said a statement released yesterday by Montgomery police.

Police say the ring operates by stealing the purses or wallets of middle-age women. A member of the ring wears wigs and other items to impersonate the victim and then uses the stolen checkbooks and ID cards to withdraw money from the victims' bank accounts.

The incidents at the three SunTrust banks occurred two weeks before the arrest of Silva and the indictment of Jacqueline Jones-Belim. But police think the woman in the banks' surveillance photographs -- a white woman possibly between the ages of 40 and 50 -- is a different Wig Lady.

"We can't be absolutely certain," said Montgomery police spokeswoman Lucille Baur, "but that's the direction we're going in."

Montgomery police suspect that Charles Belim is responsible for the most recent theft schemes near Richmond and in Montgomery. He is wanted in several jurisdictions, including Montgomery.

Police think Belim moved the ring from Boston to Maryland in 2005. Although officers have no evidence, they suspect he may be in the D.C. area.

Baur said that the November scams could be part of a copycat scheme, but detectives lean toward thinking "it is a reemergence of the original."


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