One in Palo Alto VA credit-card fraud ring pleads guilty

More than $22,000 was charged on cards stolen from Palo Alto and Stanford hospital and clinic employees

An Oakland woman who was part of a credit-card theft ring that preyed on Palo Alto Veterans Hospital workers, Stanford Hospital and Palo Alto Medical Foundation employees pleaded guilty to three felony counts on Wednesday, June 8, in U.S. District Court in San Jose.

Rachelle Williams was accused of being part of a ring that included her ex-husband, Thurman Douglas Smith, a veteran who received treatment at the VA hospital, and Vessie Lynn Stevens, an associate of Smith's.

The trio allegedly racked up more than $22,000 in purchases from the stolen credit cards between March 2009 and March 2010, according to a federal indictment filed on March 18, 2011.

Smith went to the facilities and stole wallets and purses from female employees. Four victims were from the Palo Alto VA, one was from Stanford and another was from Palo Alto Medical, according to the indictment.

Williams, Smith and Stevens used the stolen credit cards for purchases at Target, Sears, Ross and Marshall's retail stores in San Bruno, San Mateo and Mountain View.

The bulk of purchases were made at Target, according to the indictment. The credit cards were also used to purchase gift cards, which were used for purchases. Additional thefts occurred at the VA Medical Center in Livermore and the U.C. Davis Medical Center.

All three face nine felony counts: one count of conspiracy to commit access-device fraud, four counts of fraud and attempted fraud in connection with an access device and four counts of aggravated identity theft. If convicted on all of the charges, they face a maximum of 63 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine for each count.

Williams is listed as having made purchases or attempted to make purchases 33 times with the stolen cards, according to the indictment.

She pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit access-device fraud, attempted fraud in connection with an access device and aggravated identity theft. The terms of the plea deal were not immediately available.

She is scheduled for judgment and sentencing on Aug. 24 by Judge Lucy Koh.


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