D.C. police said yesterday they were looking for a woman in her early 30s who has allegedly written thousands of dollars in bad checks as she shuttles between Washington and Palm Beach, renting limousines and expensive houses while impersonating a wealthy New England heiress.

The woman, whose name is unknown, signed the checks as "Melody P.V. Cabot." She apparently returned to Washington three weeks ago after treating herself and four seniors from Pennsylvania's Haverford College to five days at a $600-a-day villa in Palm Beach, police said.

Nipper DeKenipp, owner of the limousine company in Palm Beach that picked up the woman at the airport and took her to the villa, told the Associated Press he thought her credit was good because, "she was in a big house."

The villa where the woman and her guests stayed had been owned by Mary Woolworth Donahue, heir to the Woolworth store fortune. Donahue sold the house two years ago for $700,000 and a Palm Beach real estate firm later rented it to the woman posing as Cabot, police said.

The woman spent about a month in Palm Beach, riding around in limousines, and ordering food, wine and champagne from some of Palm Beach's most exclusive caterers, Palm Beach police said. She pretended to be a member of the Cabot family and hinted that she was related to the Donahues, according to police.

The woman apparently wrote about $2,000 in worthless checks to Delta Air Lines for round trip tickets to Palm Beach from Washington, D.C., police said.

In Washington, the woman apparently moved into a Georgetown apartment with friends, opened a new bank account and has been wining and dining since, said Sgt. Herbert Granger of the D.C. check and fraud squad.

He said the woman operates by opening a bank account, then begins overdrawing. When the bank account is closed, she apparently continues to write checks, he said.

Granger said his squad has received bad checks from "all over the city" but mostly from liquor stores and caterers in Georgetown.

"She has addresses in Georgetown but no fixed address," he said. "It takes two to three weeks for the checks to clear and be returned and she's always on the move."

Granger said the woman has been described as being about 30, standing 5-foot-6 to 5-foot-8 and having "punk-style" hair. "Our latest description says that she has put on some weight. Not that she's heavy, but she's no longer slim," Granger said.