Identity thief’s victims struggle through ordeal
Jennifer Stephens is afraid to open her mail, fearing that an unknown creditor is coming after her for purchases she never made.
Sarah Sullivan and her daughter have been living with a friend for the past year, unable to get an apartment or apply for credit because her credit is so shot.
They were victimized by a Waianae woman dubbed by a prosecutor as the poster child for identity theft. Both victims were in court yesterday to face Lillian Hussein, a 38-year-old mother who stole their identities to apply for car loans and write checks to pay for jewelry, clothing and storage rentals.
Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario sentenced Hussein yesterday to a mandatory 10 years in prison as a persistent offender. She had pleaded guilty in December to 36 felonies, including second- and third-degree identity theft, forgery and fourth-degree theft.
She will begin serving her sentence after she completes a 10-year term she received for six previous theft and forgery cases.
Hussein was on probation in the six prior cases when she embarked on a four-month crime spree beginning in December 2005.
A tearful Hussein asked the women yesterday for forgiveness. "I have no excuse for what I have done, and I'm taking full responsibility for my actions," she said.
She used bogus IDs to open accounts and forged numerous checks to make purchases ranging from a $25,000 truck to thousands of dollars' worth of jewelry and clothing from the Waikele Premium Outlet, Costco, Sam's and Kmart, said Deputy Prosecutor Melissa Karlen.
"This is a very calculated crime spree," said Karlen, who argued for mandatory minimum terms and extended terms to be served consecutively.
Sullivan addressed Hussein and the court yesterday, saying, "I am Sara Sullivan -- it's nobody else's name."
She said she worked hard to become debt-free, only to find herself facing $40,000 in debt and her credit score down 230 points. For the past year and a half, she has been on the phone with creditors trying to prove that the person who signed the check, opened the account or charged purchases on credit in her name was not her.
She said she forgives Hussein but that she has to face the consequences.
Stephens canceled all her credit cards, closed her accounts and obtained new IDs immediately after her purse was stolen from the trunk of her car.
However, because she speaks limited English, she had to find someone to help her deal with the endless calls from the creditors.
It is not so much the money that bothers her -- the banks covered it and some was absorbed by retailers -- but it is more about how this incident has affected her mentally, she said. She fears that years from now she will still be getting letters from creditors.
Knowing Hussein will be behind bars for some time brings her some relief, she said.
Defense attorney Emmanuel Guerrero called Hussein's sentence "very, very fair -- given the circumstances."
Del Rosario also ordered Hussein to pay about $3,245 in restitution to retailers who were unable to recover their merchandise.