Fraud’s a Beach

Online thieves stealing your money

Many people enjoy vacationing in a charming beach town. Most of those vacationers save up for a trip or bite the bullet and run up the credit card a bit to foot the bill. Lauren Houck, of Abingdon, Md., decided that using someone else’s identity to fund her beach vacations was just the ticket. Her identity theft scheme turned out to be her ticket to prison, too.

Houck admitted using a stolen identity to forge 83 checks totaling more than $291K. (Wonder if any of that went to carpal tunnel syndrome treatment, from the strain of forging all those signatures?) In June 2018, Houck stole blank checks from her employer and another business. Then she stole the identity of one of her employer’s customers. Finally, she began forging the customer’s signature on the stolen checks, to fund what prosecutors describe as a “lavish lifestyle.”

A rental house in Narragansett, R.I., was part of that lavish lifestyle. In a little over a year, Houck forged three stolen checks totaling $14,000 to pay for the rental. (The poor dear needed periodic getaways, after all that strenuous identity theft.)

Houck pleaded guilty in March to aggravated identity theft and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 27, 2021. She faces a mandatory two-year term in federal prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and up to one year of federal supervised release. (Oh good, she can get lots of R&R in a quaint little cell.)

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island, Maryland Woman Pleads Guilty in Rhode Island to Aggravated Identity Theft,” dated March 12, 2021.

PROVIDENCE – An Abington, Maryland, woman appeared in U.S. District Court in Providence, RI, on Thursday and admitted that she used the stolen identity of a customer of a Maryland business where she was employed in June 2018 and stolen blank checks from two businesses to fraudulently obtain money and services, including for the rental of a home in southern Rhode Island.

Lauren Houck, 31, admitted to the court that she gained the personal identity of the customer and forged her signature on 83 checks totaling more than $291,400. Most of the funds were used to finance a lavish lifestyle.

Additional information is provided in a Patch article, “Maryland Woman Admits to Forging Checks for Narragansett Rental,” dated March 12, 2021.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.