Bernanke gets good news on identity-theft case

By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 26, 2010

As Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke waits to hear about how difficult his confirmation hearings for a second term could be, he got good news last week on his identity-theft case: A leader of the ring that victimized him and his wife was sentenced to more than 16 years in prison.

The Fed chair became a victim of the fast-growing financial crime when a thief stole Anna Bernanke's purse from the back of her chair at a Capitol Hill Starbucks on Aug. 7, 2008. Inside were her leather wallet, four credit cards, $5 in cash and her checkbook, police and court records said.

A week later, a $900 check from the couple's Wachovia Bank account was deposited into a Bank of America account in Hyattsville.

Prosecutors said the theft was the work of a nationwide identity-theft ring that has caused more than $1.5 million in losses to at least 10 financial institutions. One of two ringleaders, Leonardo Darnell Zanders, 49, of Dolton, Ill., was sentenced on Friday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria to 16 years and eight months in prison, prosecutors said. Twelve people have been charged, and 10 have pleaded guilty in the case.

Zanders pleaded guilty during his trial in September to charges of conspiring to commit bank fraud. A transcript shows that another defendant who earlier admitted guilt, Darrell Earl Price, was on the stand when the Bernanke name came up. He testified that he had received a Bernanke check at least once.

"What was the purpose -- what was the purpose of your receipt of that check in the name of Ben and Anna Bernanke?" a prosecutor asked Price.

"The same transaction," Price responded.

"In other words, to do the fraudulent check-cashing transaction?" the prosecutor said.

"Yes," Price answered.

Bernanke's second nomination to the Fed job, which had seemed assured, was thrown into doubt last week amid the populist backlash that followed the Republican U.S. Senate victory in Massachusetts on Tuesday.

The White House has launched an intensive campaign to support Bernanke, and the Obama administration and key senators expressed more confidence over the weekend in his prospects.

A spokeswoman for Bernanke declined comment on the sentencing.

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