Identity Thief Caught When Victim Doesn't Give Up
Detectives work with neighboring agency to collar larcenous "partner."
Four felony charges have been filed against a man who stole his girlfriend's financial identity and has caused four years of damage to her finances and credit. Belinda S., a 31-year-old woman, met William Schaeffler, a 33-year-old Ventura resident, in 2003. They had a whirlwind romance and began living together soon after. They started a business together, using her good credit as the collateral.
She thought she had found the man of her dreams, until she discovered charges on her credit cards that she hadn't made. Schaeffler told her that he needed some gas, so he used her Discover Card, which she had placed in a drawer at home. Belinda told him that wasn't acceptable, but he gave her excuses as to why he needed to do it that way. He continued to use her credit cards and even purchased a vehicle in her name.
Belinda soured on the relationship and the business, ending them both. The nightmare began when she learned that Schaeffler had used her Social Security number to open charge accounts in her name. Schaeffler charged cars and other expensive items to Belinda and had the bills delivered to his address. He ran up over $300,000 in bills in her name. Belinda filed police reports but the involved agencies were not able to file charges against Schaeffler.
Belinda dealt with the increasing calls from collection agencies and making attempts to have the credit companies restore her credit record. She spent $20,000 on an attorney and filed a civil lawsuit against Schaeffler. In 2006, she won a judgment for $300,000, but he has not paid a dime yet.
In July, 2008, Schaeffler activated Belinda's Best Buy, Macy's and other credit card accounts. He used her name to purchase over $4,000 in game systems and clothing. He also attempted to purchase two more vehicles, but was unable to make the purchase. Since Schaeffler changed the addresses and phone numbers on the credit accounts, Belinda was unaware that he was using her credit yet again.
Finally, after the bills remained unpaid, one of the credit companies contacted her prior employer who advised her of the call. She again filed a police report, this time the charges occurred in Santa Clarita and Detective Doug Nale was assigned the investigation.
Convinced that Schaeffler was committing theft that could be proved in court, Nale compiled all the information and tried to contact Schaeffler, who was still e-mailing Belinda and trying to explain away his use of the credit, telling her that he only used one of their old joint accounts and wasn't really doing anything wrong. Belinda, who took normal credit card precautions, had never opened any joint credit card accounts with Schaeffler.
Although Detective Nale did not have a warrant for Schaeffler yet, he was able to put an indicator that Schaeffler was a person of interest into the Criminal History/ Warrant system. On Friday, August 29, Los Angeles Police Department was called to a location where they contacted Schaeffler. When they ran him in the system and saw the "Want," they contacted Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station. Detective Nale responded to LAPD's location and arrested Schaeffler for the thefts he committed in July.
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney's office filed four felony counts - identity theft, commercial burglary, theft and grand theft - against William Schaeffler, who is now in custody at the Inmate Reception Center in lieu of $110,000 bail. His next court date is September 23 in Santa Clarita Superior Court.
Sheriff’s officials warn that once a person's financial identity is compromised, it can be extremely difficult to repair. Identity theft is not a victimless crime. Belinda S., who took the normal precautions, has spent the past 5 years working to solve the credit problems Schaeffler caused for her. In that time, she has been unable to obtain the low interest home and auto loans that many of us take for granted. Belinda’s family and friends advised her several times to give up, but she did not.