Crime and punishment and other people's money. Three local woman tied to a identity theft scam and right now one of them is still on the run. At least 18 people have lost a total of $10,000. What's worse is police don't know how one of the women got a hold of social security numbers.
As a forensic specialists, Melanie DeMatteo knows a thing or two about crime. But when Fifth Third Bank contacted her to verify her new bank account, she knew she was the victim.
"It had my name, my date of birth, my social security number," she said.
St. Petersburg police say these three women are behind a year long fraud investigation with many twists and turns. Isabelle Dallas, Jessica Dallas and Chantelle Jones.
"All of a sudden it leads you to four other different directions and more victims," said Detective Kevin Smith of the complexity of the case.
Isabelle Dallas is wanted. She worked for Magazines Unlimited. St. Pete police insist the supervisors are cooperating with the case and were "devastated" to hear the news. Smith calls the business a victim, as well.
Smith says, over the phone, customers gave Isabelle Dallas their full credit card information. Her daughter, Jessica, opened new credit cards with the information. She used them to pay bills and even give money to her child's father in jail. Smith says all of the Dallas' victims were out-of-state. But the tricky part is Chantelle jones whose victims include four local people. Melanie was one of them.
"No one deserves that, I mean I work really hard and I'm still young and building my credit," said DeMatteo.
Police say Jones knew the mother-daughter duo but used a different technique to open online bank accounts. Police don't know how she did it.
"We would love to know how they did it because it gives us a chance to explain how to better safe guard their information."
Weeks after disputing the fake bank account police told Melanie that $5,000 dollars in furniture was also bought in her name. She's just trying to stay positive.
"I would have liked to see the furniture that she picked out," she laughed.