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Cards Were Fraudulent --and the Dresses, Too

May 14, 1999|ROBIN FIELDS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Theirs would be a garden variety credit-fraud case, but for one detail.

The cross-dressing.

Postal inspectors say four Southland residents--the ringleader has already been convicted--stole more than $1 million between 1996 and late 1998 with fraudulently obtained credit cards.

The twist: Men in the group ordered cards under women's names and sometimes dressed as women to make purchases with them, said Postal Inspection Service spokeswoman Pamela Prince.

Authorities can't say for sure whether the gender-bending was a lifestyle choice or an effort at disguise.

The ring's purported leader, Julius Cory Hudson, 28, of San Clemente, pleaded guilty late last month in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to two counts of fraudulent use of an access device.

Hudson was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay $330,000 in restitution.

Postal authorities still are seeking Hudson's alleged accomplices: Denise Parker, 48, of Moreno Valley; Tyrone E. Clifton, 28, of Los Angeles, who also goes by Jennifer Fomby and Traci McVea; and Basil Haughton, 28, of Los Angeles, also known as Ank Weeks and Tony, or Toni, Johnson.

The transgender wrinkle is unusual, but not unique, federal agents said. Rings of transvestites also have been charged or convicted in credit card and identity theft rip-offs in Chicago and South Florida.

Cross-dressing may give perpetrators a larger pool of victims to choose from and could help them elude capture, consumer groups said.

A few credit issuers have pioneered programs designed to balance fraud control with respect for the needs of clients whose lifestyles involve changing their appearance.

In 1994, the Royal Bank of Scotland started providing transvestite account holders with two credit cards, each with a photograph, one showing them as a man, the other as a woman.

Postal Service investigators said Hudson's group stole personal and credit information by fishing credit checks from the trash at two Riverside County car dealerships. They also stole data from loan applications filed at a bank where Hudson found temporary work in the refinancing department, Prince said.

Ring members used the cards to make cash withdrawals from automated teller machines and face-to-face purchases at local businesses, investigators say.

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