Coast Guard admiral testifies in fraud trial

Posted Jan. 26, 2009, at 8:57 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 10:43 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The trial of a Bangor woman accused of stealing the identity of the highest-ranking woman in the U.S. Coast Guard and getting credit cards in her name got under way Monday in U.S. District Court with testimony from the victim.

Mary L. Landry, 43, pleaded not guilty in October to three counts each of aggravated identity theft and wire fraud, two counts of Social Security fraud and fraud in connection with access devices.

The defendant and the victim, a rear admiral stationed at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C., have the same first and last names but different middle names, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Moore told the jury in his opening statement. The women are not related and their dates of birth and Social Security numbers are different.

The prosecutor also said that the defendant had access to the victim’s date of birth when she worked at MBNA, now Bank of America, from 2001 to 2003 in collections. At Verizon, now FairPoint, where Landry has worked as a customer service representative since 2003, she had access to the victim’s Social Security number, he told the jury.

Defense attorney Jon Haddow of Bangor said in his opening statement that the defendant opened a Chase Bank Visa charge account in April 2007 that she used for purchases and made payments on. He also said that she applied for Discover and Fashion Bug cards but they were declined because of discrepancies in the information provided and information that was in the firms’ computers.

Haddow told the jury that the prosecution would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that his client is guilty. He said the identity switch most likely was the result of a computer error.

The victim testified Monday that when she was promoted to admiral in 2007, she canceled many of the credit cards she and her husband had had over the years because her “top secret” security clearance required that she have no bad debt. The admiral said that when she learned her identity might have been stolen, she was con-cerned that bad debt under her name would affect her security clearance designation.

The Coast Guard is under the authority of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during peacetime and under the direction of the U.S. Navy during wartime.

The admiral told the jury that she first learned in the summer of 2007 that her identity might have been stolen when she received a letter that someone had tried to open a Discover charge card in her name. She said that she put out a fraud alert through the Social Security Department’s Web site and subscribed to a monitoring system that would alert her if and when a credit card she did not have was used.

A few weeks later, the victim testified, she was informed that more than $6,000 worth of merchandise had been charged to a Chase Bank Visa card in her name and that someone had tried to open a Fashion Bug credit card using her identity. She immediately took steps to inform both companies that she had not opened the ac-counts, the admiral told the jury.

She also testified that from 2000 to 2007 she had an MBNA credit card. In addition, she told the jury that from 2000 to 2005, Verizon provided her telephone, cable television and Internet service. Her family switched service providers about three years ago, she said.

Tamson Tracy, a team leader and trainer for Verizon who knows the defendant, told the jury that before April 2007, customer service representatives had routine access to customers’ Social Security numbers but not to their dates of birth. Under cross-examination, she said the company’s computer system recorded the identification number of Verizon employees who viewed customer data. A review of computer records showed that the defendant had never viewed the victim’s data, Tracy said.

Under questioning from the prosecutor, Tracy said that if the system “crashed” while a customer service representative was viewing customer information, the computer would not record which employee had been last accessing the information.

Haddow said after court adjourned Monday that his client would testify in her own defense.

Mary L. Landry is on an unpaid leave from her job pending the outcome of the case, he said.

The trial is expected to go to the jury Wednesday.

If convicted, the defendant faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on the wire fraud counts, the most serious of the charges.

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