A Mother's Identity Theft Diary

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August 1, 1997

Received a call from Mr. Sorenson telling me that Sarah, my daughter (age 19), had tried to cash one of his stolen checks at the Wells Fargo Bank in El Cerrito. He informed me that when his car was stolen, the thief also took his checkbook. His car had been recovered and he wanted some of this stuff back. He said he had spoken with the person that had attempted to cash his check. The bank teller had called him while the person was waiting at the teller's window.

 I told him that Sarah's purse had been stolen on 2/14 but everything, including her driver license and cash, was returned. I called Sarah and explained the situation to her. She was perplexed as to what had happened. Sarah called him to talk to him. Mr. Sorenson told me he didn't think Sarah was the person.

I left voice mail message with Detective O'Neill regarding the incident. I wanted to talk to him about the incident at the bank where somebody had pretended to be my daughter. I told him about Sarah losing her purse on 2/14. I also spoke with Julie (a manager) at the bank to find out what was going on. She asked about Sarah's looks. I told her that she had long hair and a mole in one of her eyes.

I called the El Cerrito police department. I was told that Detective O'Neill was not in. Our other daughter, Francine, reminded us that our car was stolen last April and that Sarah's license was inside the car and therefore it had been also stolen.

Sarah received letter from El Cerrito Police Department asking her to contact Officer West immediately. I called him and we set up appointment for the next day. During my telephone conversation with Officer West, I told him that there must have been a mistake because Sarah was not the person at the bank. He told me that he knew or had known the teller (who had received the stolen check) for a long time and that she was a nice and credible lady.

We (Sarah, Paul and myself) met with Officer West. We showed him the stolen car report. Also, we showed him Sarah's current license that was issued after our car was stolen.

Sarah told him that she wanted to have a meeting, face to face, with the teller. Officer West immediately dialed the teller's phone number (Odd that he knows her home telephone number and that he can reach her on a Sunday. Is the phone number on the report or does he know it by heart?). He left a message at her answering machine.

Sarah asked Officer West if the person attempting to cash the stolen check at the bank had long hair. Officer West responded affirmatively. Sarah pointed out to him that her hair is short; that the picture on the stolen license was taken when she had long hair. Officer West just rolled his eyes.

Officer West refused to shake Sarah's hand when she extended it to say good bye. Also, Officer West offered that if Sarah made restitution, the victim of the stolen checks would not press charges against her. We told him that there was nothing to return because Sarah had not stolen the checks. His offer of restitution in exchange for dropping charges and his attitude toward Sarah lead us to believe that Officer West has reached the conclusion that Sarah is guilty.

Later that day, we received a call from the victim (Mr. Sorenson -- we have a tape of his message asking us to call him back) offering to drop the charges if Sarah would return his property since he has spent around $900 thus far. I told him that Sarah had not stolen his property, that he needed to do whatever he needed to do but that we were going to clear Sarah's name.

I left messages for Officer West but was informed that he will not be in until Wednesday.

I talked to Officer West. I told him that Sarah wants to meet with the teller face-to-face. He explained to me that he and Sarah will go to the bank together and that they will see the teller together. I told him that I wanted to go with her (I don't trust Officer West. He is a friend of the teller). He said that only Sarah and him will see the teller, I would have to wait at the police station. I raised the issue of highly suggestive form of identification, since he would be arriving with the so-called suspect ... he said, "good point, perhaps you want to consult with legal counsel."

We did talk to some of our attorney friends, including a district attorney. We were advised that the manner in which Officer West was going to conduct the identification drill was highly suggestive. They advised us to supply the police department with a written report of Sarah's whereabouts on February 26. I called Officer West several times to let him know that we will not have Sarah meet with the teller because of its highly suggestive impact. I left three messages but was unable to talk to him. He didn't return my calls.

Sarah has written a report of her whereabouts on Wednesday 2/26. We will drop the report by the police station. We are concerned that something very odd is going on. We are concerned that Officer West is not objective or that something nefarious is going on.

I have called the Chief of Police because we are very concerned with the direction and handling of Sarah's case. We are concerned with Officer West's apparent bias approach to the case, or perhaps something more sinister....

I called Officer West to ask him about the status of the case. He said that he was going to do a photo-lineup. I reminded him that a photo-lineup didn't make sense. That he had seen that Sarah had short hair now and that the pictures on the driver licenses (previous and current) show Sarah with long hair. I asked him why he hadn't asked for a current picture from Sarah for the photo-lineup. He asked me if she had one. I replied no. Then, he told me to have Sarah go to DMV to have a picture taken.

I also asked him if he had seen the video from the bank. I asked this question because since he had seen Sarah personally, he could make the comparison with the video. He told he had not seen it. I asked if he had requested the video from the bank and he told me he had not requested it yet. This seems so elementary that I am astonished he has not requested the videotape. He told me that the wheels of justice run slow.

NOTE:   Officer West called Erin regarding Sarah's whereabouts on 2/26.

Sarah and Paul went to the police station to have her fingerprints taken. A police officer took them. He also took Sarah's picture. I trust that they are checking the fingerprints against the check and not against the driver license because the driver license was Sarah's before it was stolen.

I called to talk to detective O'Neill to check as to the status of his investigation. He informed me that he will not talk to me since Sarah is an adult... I don't understand the change since I have talked to Police Chief Ortega, Supervisor Dalton, and Officer West regarding the case.

Sarah called Detective O'Neill to inquire about the case and fingerprint results. However she was told that the detective is out until the 12th.

WEEK OF 4/14
Sarah has been told that the results of the fingerprint test are not in. Sarah asked when they will be in. Detective O'Neill told her that if she was innocent she didn't have anything to worry about.

Sarah called Detective O'Neill and left a message to call him back. No response.

When we returned from a weekend at Yosemite Park, we found a letter addressed to Sarah advising her that charges (three misdemeanor counts) had been filed against her. That she needed to show up at the Richmond Court to have her charges read. We can't believe that the El Cerrito Police Department has gone ahead and filed charges against Sarah. On what are they basing these charges? This is bizarre!

We have called Whitman & Garcia (attorneys) to meet with them to discuss and hire them to represent Sarah. We have an appointment for next Monday, July 14.

I had to call my HMO because I woke up this morning with my jaw locked. Since the receipt of the letter, I have been under a lot of stress...I must have been grinding my teeth. My doctor prescribed pain-killer medication.

My jaw is still locked.

We met with the attorneys. They can't believe that Sarah has been charged. We told them that there are three possibilities: that the police has been negligent or malicious; that the victim and teller are in collusion, or that Sarah's fingerprints are on the check. They said they will show up on Monday, July 21 to hear the charges. Then they will ask for the police report.

I went to see Dr. Olson, oral surgeon, regarding my jaw. It is still locked. He gave muscle relaxants and told me to make an appointment with Dr. Drynan, another oral surgeon. I have made it for next Monday, July 21.

Dr. Drynan wants me to put hot/cold compresses and to take three advils every 6 hours. If this doesn't work he will have to inject my jaw directly.

I got the police report. I was so angry when I read it that I had to pull to the side of the road to catch my breath. I felt my jaw tightening again.

It is amazing that the police didn't include the statement by Erin who corroborated Sarah's whereabouts on the date and perhaps the hour of the incident. Furthermore, Sarah had forgotten to write on her report that she and Erin had gone to have yogurt after class. Where is Erin's statement?? Have the police willfully and maliciously withheld this evidence which clearly demonstrates that Sarah was not and could not have been at El Cerrito Wells Fargo Bank.

Officer West lies through his teeth!! He writes on his report that he suggested that Sarah submit to a line-up. We never talked about line-up identification. That is a lie because Sarah was the one who suggested a "face to face" meeting with the teller. Furthermore, he notes on his report that Sarah failed to show up at the line-up. Please read Wednesday, March 5 and subsequent attempts to reach him.

At the first interview we had with Officer West, we told him to make a copy of Sarah's driver license (the one she had with her) to show that she had ordered a new one right after her car had been stolen. He made a copy of the license but it is not included in the report.

It is interesting to note that Officer West doesn't mention his offer that if Sarah were to make restitution, the victim will not file charges.

With the help of our attorney, a judge ordered that the charges be dropped. We are now attempting to get Sarah's record sealed or expunged.



Received a call from Mr. Sorenson telling me that Sarah, my daughter (age 19), had tried to cash one of his stolen checks at the Wells Fargo Bank in El Cerrito. He informed me that when his car was stolen, the thief also took his checkbook. His car had been recovered and he wanted some of this stuff back. He said he had spoken with the person that had attempted to cash his check. The bank teller had called him while the person was waiting at the teller's window.