Victims' bank accounts emptied by thieves

Published On: Oct 14 2013 07:06:01 AM EDT
Updated On: Oct 14 2013 06:20:00 AM EDT

Think of a bank robbery and images of armed masked men might come to mind.  But there are other ways to rob a bank and they are just as sinister.

"Crystaline and Carter Smith recruited a person from the inside to assist her with getting banking information basically," said US Postal Inspector Essialani Hollier-Jackson.

The bank "insider" gave the Smith's account information and identifiers.

"They had a third party, who ends up being Elise Bell, who went in and attempted and actually successfully took all of the money out of the victims account," said Hollier-Jackson.

The group stole $150,000 from one victim alone.

"These funds, these were her life savings and she was so distraught she couldn't understand how this happened," said Hollier-Jackson.

As Postal Inspectors began digging, they found "this" case was just the beginning for the Smith's.

"They did use other different people identifiers but they did use their faces," explained Hollier-Jackson.

Inspectors quickly learned the Smith's were career criminals.

"They lived in a very nice home that they had stolen, of course. They both drove nice cars that were bought in someone else's names," she said. "During a search warrant we did find a large amount of cash at one house."

As Inspectors closed in on the duo, they turned on each other.

"The best part is they are such good criminals that they both talked about the other to improve their status in terms of the investigation. It wasn't me it was her - it wasn't me it was her. So there was a lot of blaming back and forth," Hollier-Jackson said.

In this case, there was very little the victim could have done to protect her bank account.  However, Inspectors say there are steps we all can take.

"Check your credit report," warned Hollier-Jackson. "Check it regularly. If there is anything on it that appears odd or shouldn't be there, contact the credit bureau and find out what's going on."

Also, check your mail. If you are missing something you were expecting,call the company right away.

"If you're not going to be home, put a vacation hold on your mail, the post office would be more than happy   to hold your mail until you get back. These are the things criminals are looking for and they are easy ways for you to protect yourself," added Hollier-Jackson.

Crystal and Carter Smith were linked to fraud totaling more than $1 million. They were each sentenced to more than 3 years in jail.

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