NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A former student at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk is accused of stealing identities of other students and alumni, and using the information to set up fraudulent credit card accounts.
The investigation began two years ago, in July 2012. Federal investigator Gary Neff said in a criminal complaint filed in court that he tracked fraudulent credit card charges to 28-year-old Katecha Thomas. Thomas was then linked to Virginia Wesleyan.
The investigation revealed Thomas was a student at Virginia Wesleyan at the time the credit card accounts were set up in February 2012. She also worked for the college through a work-study, which means a student can work on campus to help pay for school.
School spokeswoman Leona Baker said Thomas worked in the in the Office of Advancement. Neff wrote in the criminal complaint, Thomas had unrestricted access to a database with 381,000 records of current students, past students, and Virginia Wesleyan alumni. Authorities believe Thomas took the names, social security numbers, and birthdays of four past or current Wesleyan students, then used the information to open up credit cards in their names.
Neff and investigators have linked Thomas to 104 fraudulent credit card applications, according to court documents. They said she stole $11,440.79 and attempted to steal a total of $142,050.
“This is just kind of disappointing,” said Melissa Butcher, a Virginia Wesleyan alumna and former employee.
Butcher added, she would have rather heard about the identity theft through the college, rather than word of mouth and news reports.
“It would be appropriate for me to receive a letter, letting me know that this has possibly happened,” Butcher said. “Maybe I should take steps to secure my personal information?”
Virginia Wesleyan did alert the community Friday afternoon.
In a statement to the campus community, Virginia Wesleyan said school officials found out about the incident in August 2012, and immediately took the following steps to address it:
- We immediately cooperated with the government and provided recommended disclosure to the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office.
- We received a list of less than 100 names whose identity could have been compromised.
- We worked with a risk management company to assist those individuals whose identity could have been compromised.
- To our knowledge, we are not aware of any individual other than those contacted, who may have been a victim of identity theft.
Thomas surrendered and was arrested in Brooklyn, New York on July 25. Her first appearance in U.S. District Court was Friday, August 8.