Pair Charged in Identity Theft Scheme

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 11, 2008

A former Library of Congress employee and a relative have been charged with stealing the identities of federal workers and using the purloined names to buy thousands of dollars in goods, authorities said yesterday.

William Sinclair Jr., 27, of Southeast Washington was charged Tuesday in U.S. District Court with conspiring to commit wire fraud. The charge came in a "criminal information," a document that can be filed only with the defendant's consent and generally means that a plea deal is near.

Sinclair worked in the human resources department of the Library of Congress and used a government database in April and May to obtain the names, birthdates and Social Security numbers of at least 10 library employees, prosecutors said. He passed the information to Labiska Gibbs, 35, of Southeast Washington, a second cousin who used the information to open credit accounts at retailers including Target, Radio Shack and Circuit City, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said the stores lost more than $38,000. Gibbs was indicted by a federal grand jury last week on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. The charges against Gibbs and Sinclair were unsealed Tuesday.

The scam is the latest identity theft incident involving a government worker. On Friday, a former employee of the Federal Emergency Management Agency was sentenced to more than five years in federal prison for stealing the identities of 200 people, some of them disaster victims.

In U.S. District Court yesterday, a federal judge sentenced a former D.C. public schools employee and a friend to six months in prison for stealing the identities of 65 job applicants and co-workers to buy more than $40,000 in items such as boys' clothes and musical instruments.

Rashelle L. Henderson, 22, of District Heights, a program support specialist for D.C. schools, and her friend Tashana Crews, 25, of Southeast Washington pleaded guilty in June to conspiring to commit identity theft.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan read in court some of the letters sent by the women's victims describing the turmoil in their lives since their identities were stolen. One wrote about her daily anxiety and distrust of others, Sullivan said, and related how she dreaded opening her mailbox in case it contained a letter from a company asking that "I pay thousands of dollars for items I did not purchase."

Both women apologized. Crews's attorney, Roger W. Hale, said his client is not a bad person. "She's not Mother Teresa, but she isn't Bonnie and Clyde, either," he said, referring to the infamous armed robbers of the 1930s.

Sullivan frowned at the analogy. "The only difference is that your client didn't use a gun," he said. "Your client is Bonnie without a gun."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan B. Menzer had urged the judge to impose an 18-month prison term. In addition to the six-month term, Sullivan sentenced the women to pay $48,508.46 in restitution and serve six months in a halfway house after their incarceration.

The scam began in April 2006, when Henderson was working at the D.C. school system's office of professional development in the 200 block of G Street NE. As part of her job, she had access to documents that contained the names, birthdates and Social Security numbers of school employees and job applicants, prosecutors said.

Henderson sent the stolen information to Crews by e-mail, and both used the names and other personal data to open credit accounts, prosecutors said.

The women bought North Face jackets, musical instruments and car service, among other items. Using the identity of a teacher's aide, Crews and Henderson bought nearly $2,000 in musical items and $5,000 in furniture, authorities said.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company