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Creepy Crawlers at the Movies

Identity thieves targeted women watching movies at theaters in Greenwich and Fairfield.

If a movie were made about the activities of this trio, it might well be titled "The Creepsters."

It would be a horror flick for the victims whose identities and credit cards were stolen as they watched movies at theaters in Greenwich and Fairfield, according to details released by the US Attorney for Connecticut.

Connecticut's US Attorney David B. Fein announced this week that Jamie McGowan, 25, of Philadelphia, PA, was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant in Hartford to 18 months in jail, followed by three years of supervised release, for her role in a credit card fraud and identity theft scheme that preyed upon the unsuspecting female movie-goers. 

According to court documents and statements made in court, between 2008 and 2010, Anthony Johnson, also of Philadelphia, operated a credit card fraud and identity theft scheme at movie theaters in Connecticut. As part of the scheme, Johnson targeted movies that he believed were geared toward women. Johnson and a female accomplice would then enter a theater and sit behind an intended victim. As the movie played, Johnson crawled on the floor and removed credit cards from a purse that a victim had placed on the floor of the theater.  Johnson then created false identification in each victim’s name, but with a photo of his female accomplice. He then used the stolen credit cards to make substantial unauthorized purchases and cash advances.

On three occasions between April and August 2010, Johnson and McGowan traveled to Connecticut and stole credit cards from female patrons at movie theaters in Greenwich, Fairfield and Colchester. Johnson produced false driver’s licenses in each victim’s name, but with a photograph of McGowan.

At Johnson’s direction, McGowan used the stolen credit cards and fraudulent identification to purchase thousands of dollars in gift cards and retail items, and also to make more than $5,000 in cash advances at the Mohegan Sun Casino.  

Bryant ordered McGowan to pay $20,468.31 in restitution. McGowan has been detained since her arrest on Jan. 17, 2012. On June 22, she pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized use of an access device and one count of aggravated identity theft.

On Oct. 22, 2012, a jury found Johnson guilty of seven counts of unauthorized use of an access device and two counts of aggravated identity theft stemming from this scheme. He awaits sentencing. Lashirelle Bryant, who traveled to Connecticut with Johnson in December 2008, stole credit cards and made more than $50,000 in unauthorized purchases, also has pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Greenwich, Fairfield and Waterford Police departments. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Rahul Kale and Paul H. McConnell.

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