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July 12, 2013

Woman must pay restitution in credit fraud case

SALEM — A Salem couple who had paid off their Home Depot credit card years ago were among the victims of a nationwide identity theft ring whose leader is currently awaiting federal sentencing, according to court documents.

And one of the associates of that ring will spend the next two years on probation, repaying nearly $10,000 to the home improvement chain for transactions she admitted making by using the Salem couple’s personal information.

Cynthia Ellis, 42, of 23 Tracey St., Peabody, pleaded guilty to seven counts each of identity fraud and credit card fraud, and a charge of felony larceny by single scheme during a hearing Wednesday in Salem District Court.

The sentence was the result of a plea agreement reached between her attorney, Mark McNally, and prosecutor Michelle DeCourcey.

But Judge Robert Brennan warned Ellis that should she violate her probation, she faces substantial jail time.

DeCourcey told the judge that the couple went to police in January 2012 after discovering that there was suddenly a balance of nearly $13,000 on the Home Depot card they had paid off long ago.

An investigation determined that someone had been using the wife’s Social Security number and a phony driver’s license issued in the woman’s name, with what turned out to be Ellis’ photo, to make charges to the account for thousands of dollars worth of gift cards, DeCourcey said.

Salem police, led by Detective Dennis Gaudet, obtained surveillance photos of the transactions and put out images of the people making the transactions.

A Billerica House of Corrections guard recognized William Dodge in one of the photos. Dodge had been charged by police in both Framingham and Peabody with credit card fraud.

Dodge, 45, of Peabody, has pleaded guilty to federal credit card fraud and identity fraud charges that involved victims and stores all over the country. He is awaiting sentencing in U.S. District Court next month.

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