San Diego, California
Editor's Note: The following is the Victim's Statement which Linda Foley of San Diego, California, submitted to the judge who presided over her identity theft case. Linda is one of the "lucky" ones. Her impersonator was investigated by the local police department and prosecuted by the district attorney's office. Linda's "luck" was not a quirk of fate however. She worked closely with the detective who took the case. According to Linda, the best way to make sure the person who stole your identity is apprehended is to become your own advocate. Work with the police, find out what they need, ask to look at the evidence. BUT understand your case is not the only case they have. Don't call more than monthly but do call and find out the status.
There are a couple reasons why it is important for identity theft victims to submit a Victim's Statement to the judge. One is to "educate" the judge on the severity of the crime. Many judges do not see identity theft as a serious crime. As a result, identity thieves are often given light sentences involving community service and parole, rarely jail time. Another reason to submit a victim's statement is to put a face on the crime. Judges need to see how this person hurt you, the emotions and pain it has caused, and how it has impacted your life emotionally as well as financially.
I am one of Bari Nessel's victims. Along with my identity she took my trust in people, especially employers, she stole my sense of security and financial safety, and she took my ability to get credit cards, loans or purchase a major ticket item without going through hours of red tape, only to possibly have my purchase or credit request rejected.
Identity theft is considered a victimless crime. No one is "hurt", no one is shot, maimed or injured. In some ways, it would have been far simpler if she had robbed me at gunpoint. At least the nightmare would have ended today. Instead her crimes and the potential she still has to hurt me financially will haunt me the rest of her life.
In 1997 when I agreed to work for Bari Nessel I provided the information required by law- my social security number and since I was driving as part of my work, I had to provide her a copy of my driver's license. I had NO choice but to give her that information if I wanted to work. Instead of just recording that information on tax forms, per the law ---- She betrayed my trust and took advantage of that POSITION OF AUTHORITY to rape me of my identity. She didn't steal it out of a dumpster or buy it from somewhere. She purposely used sensitive information for her own financial gains.
She applied for credit cards and a cell phone using my identity. Then she used those credit cards to purchase items ---- even from advertisers in her magazine, our own clients!!! For the most part- they were luxury items, items of choice that she could have done without. She wanted them and she was going to have them- whether she could afford them or not.
She claims this is just a big misunderstanding. That she intended these cards for me. I never saw them. And how does she explain the use of my name and information for a cell phone she applied for in July just one week after I gave her my data? She used it exclusively for 5 months, I didn't even know it was in my name until I received a final notice before collection in NOVEMBER. I want it clearly known - at no time did I give Bari Nessel my permission to use my name, my address, my social security number, my driver's license number or any personal data to get a credit card or a cell phone, either for her sole use or as a "co-user." And at no time did I give her permission to sign my name to anything.
The credit card companies won't go after Bari Nessel ---- she knows it. She's too small for them to waste their attorney fees on her. 1st USA and Pac Bell both said those words to me. She gets off scot free- from them. Frankly, I think she should be required to pay them back also.
But this crime will never be over for me. Bari Nessel had access to my driver's license and social security numbers. She still has a record of those numbers, along with my date of birth on the driver's license, whether she admits it or not. They may well be in her computer database right now.
With those 3 pieces of information, she could steal my identity again and again, anytime in the future, even after I die --- and I cannot stop her, not without putting my economic life on hold indefinitely. All she has to do is the same thing she did this time -- fill out my name on the forms and use her address so that I won't be wise.
I have had to put a lock on my credit status for the next 7 years. That means a warning goes on my credit history saying I was a victim of fraud and that before granting credit to call a special number to confirm the request is genuinely mine. Not all credit companies do, though.. Every company using a credit reporting organization will continue question my credit.
From this date forward, in order to get a credit card, a loan, to purchase a major ticket item, to rent an apartment or buy a house I will be faced with miles of red tape, suspicions and weeks of notarized documentation. I've already had 2 applications refused- from K-Mart and Montgomery Wards as well as a loan for a car questioned and nearly refused. Yet my credit history was spotless and I have an "A" rating. Employers will question my credibility, wondering why a lock has been placed on my credit status. With a fraud alert my credit records are compromised and will be forever but what choice do I have?
I've been violated, by someone I knew and had no reason to doubt. I don't know who to trust and who not to anymore. Since this crime against me has taken place, I have distrusted every attempt to gain my personal information, even when necessary- from doctor's offices, merchants, and even potential employers. Since Ms. Nessel was my employer when this happened I also lost a job - an important source of income to my household.
How do I learn to trust again? Or maybe I shouldn't. I just know my life has been changed- and I don't like this feeling --- at all.
Bari Nessel could have made an good, honest living, by selling or writing. Instead she prefers to get her money at the expense of others- people whose trust she betrays, then she tries to weasel out of her responsibility by filing bankrupcy or denying any wrongdoing. The problem is how we now know when she is being honest and when she is betraying a trust. Only by close monitoring can she be held to any accountability.
I don't see any signs of remorse in her. In fact, she's been blatantly disrespectful of this court and its requests and schedules. I was here on Jan. 29th. She wasn't. As far as I can see, she's only sorry she got caught - this time.
From what I know, she has made no efforts to straighten out over the years. Instead she's been honing her skills, working at getting better at manipulating people out of money. She's escalated her financial crimes. She then pretends remorse only to get out of paying people back. She owes me money, too. From commissions and expenses I incurred for her. She's refused to pay me, she referred me to a bankruptcy attorney. One that no longer is handling her case.
I request you consider the following options when pronouncing sentence.
1. That Bari Nessel not be allowed to apply for any credit cards or a checking account for at least 5 years. That any loans or credit applications must go through her probation officer. That she must use her home address as her only mailing address, no PO Box! Frankly, I'd like to see all her mail go through probation- but I realize that is not realistic.
2. That Bari Nessel not be allowed to be in an employer position, requiring personal data from an employee for the next 10 years without a requirement that the employee know of her conviction.
3. That Bari Nessel receive the maximum jail time possible--- to give her a loud message that she has broken the law.-- followed by the maximum probation time possible which I understand is 5 years. I believe this monitoring is vital in keeping her honest. New habit patterns take time.
4. That Bari Nessel be required to pay restitution to me- the money she owes me for commissions and expenses $312.50 plus interest if possible and $1000 for me to use to purchase a credit monitoring program for the next 10 years and notarizing services-This kind of service will notify me immediately when someone requests a credit card, tries to use my driver's license, requests a change of address and more. There are three such services- one through TRW and one independent. I'm investigating which one is better. It's my only protection against her.
If she has to pay for this service maybe she'll leave me alone- she'll know I'm watching. I ask for notarizing services because that is how I will have to prove my identity and request for credit for the rest of my life. Unfortunately I have been told I cannot ask for compensation for emotional distress or punitive damages or I would ask for considerably more. I also think she should have to pay back all charges incurred with the credit card and to Pac Bell Mobile Services.
My life has been changed FOREVER. It's a nightmare without an end. Just when I think it's over, I find out about another bill or creditor. Pac Bell took several weeks to clear up the problem so that they would not hold me responsible for the bill. Bari Nessel cannot get away with just a slap on the wrist. That's all that has happened to her so far. That's why she repeats the crimes. Why not!! Living well without having to pay the cost is worth a few thousand dollars or a few days in jail. PLEASE- Show her she may not benefit at the expense of others.
Bari Nessel is skilled at manipulating the judicial system, the same way that she's manipulated people to steal their money and their identity. You have to send a message ---- this is not acceptable behavior in our society. People in a position of power, like an employer, cannot do this.