Complicated identity theft cases that come up each week among routine shoplifting, domestic violence, and traffic crimes have prompted Baltimore County prosecutors to have a lawyer spend full time on identity theft, reports the Baltimore Sun. Prosecutor Marsha Russell won her first prison term in an identity theft case last week. Baltimore County appears to be the only jurisdiction in the metropolitan area that has a prosecutor focused exclusively on identity theft.
Russell and a paralegal juggle about 30 cases. The Baltimore County Police Department has three supervisors, 10 detectives, and one civilian assigned to its economic crimes squad. About a third of the 2,400 cases the unit handles each year are identity theft crimes; police spokesman Bill Toohey said that number represents “only the tip of the iceberg” of all such crimes that occur. In Baltimore County, 880 people were charged with identity theft crimes in the first nine months of this year. “It is the most complicated area of prosecution that I have ever worked in,” said Kim Detrick of the Baltimore County state’s attorney’s office. “It is something that your average attorney can’t just pick up one of these cases and walk into court and think they can effectively try it. It is way too complex.” In last week’s case that resulted in a prison sentence, a 48-year-old woman pleaded guilty to identity fraud in a complicated case that ended with the suspect trying to flush down the toilet a wallet that contained fraudulent credit cards as police searched her home.