WEBSTER — A former employee of the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center in Worcester and her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend allegedly stole the identities of approximately 22 people to buy cellphones and utility services via the Internet, investigators said.
Nine of the alleged victims were patients. Two victims live in Mississippi, police said.
The fired UMass Memorial worker, Katherine M. Benitez, 54, of 308 High St., Apt. 2 Rear, pleaded not guilty Friday in Dudley District Court to 21 counts of identity fraud, conspiracy, forgery, uttering a false document, larceny of more than $250, larceny of more than $250 from a person 60 years old or older or disabled, obtaining cable television service by fraud over $5,000, obtaining cable television service by fraud under $5,000, obtaining telephone service by fraud over $5,000 and telephone service by fraud under $5,000.
Police said there are arrest warrants for Ms. Benitez’s daughter, Elise Elia, and Ms. Elia’s boyfriend, Derrick Amoh. The couple is believed to be out of the state.
Ms. Benitez posted $250 bail. The judge ordered her to wear a GPS monitor, not contact her alleged victims, and surrender her passport. She is to report to probation three times a week and return to court on Dec. 2 for a pretrial hearing.
On Oct. 14, Ms. Benitez had already pleaded not guilty to a charge of identity fraud.
In that case, the police report said a man came to the station on May 8 to report that National Grid had notified him of an unpaid electricity bill for $342 in his name at 308 High St., Apt. 2 Rear.
The victim told investigators he never authorized the service, nor had he ever lived in Webster.
Ms. Benitez’s cellphone number was used on the application.
On July 28, police reached Ms. Benitez by phone. She told police the electricity was already on in the apartment when she moved in.
The alleged victim said the account was established on Dec. 18, 2013, and had been terminated on March 7.
Ms. Benitez said she began living in the apartment in October 2013. The rental agreement said she moved in on Sept. 1, 2013, with Ms. Benitez the only tenant, the report said.
In June, National Grid decided that the victim was not responsible for the electricity charges, and credited his account, the report said.
The court granted police’s request to summon Ms. Benitez.
Police said more instances of identity theft were reported by police in other communities.
The investigation revealed about 22 victims of identify fraud, the report said.
On April 13, 2013, a person in Leicester told Leicester police that a fraudulent Charter Communications account had been set up in his name at 7 Oxford Ave., third-floor apartment, which was previously occupied by Ms. Elia.
Ms. Elia told Leicester police she had resided in the apartment, but did not pay for cable during that time because it worked when she plugged in her television, the report said.
On July 11, 2013, a victim in Webster told Webster police his personal identification information was used to set up DirecTV service at 61 Lake St., first floor left, a previous address for Ms. Elia.
An account had also been set up in this man’s name at 7 Oxford Ave., third floor.
On Sept. 14, 2013, Holden police took a report from a man who said his personal information was used to buy cellphones that were delivered to 7 Granite St., Webster.
An investigator said one of the phones was frequently used by Mr. Amoh’s daughter. Mr. Amoh had given her the phone, the report said.
In addition, Holden police received a tip that Ms. Benitez, while working for the hospital, stole patient information and gave the information to her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend, who then ordered cellphones and sold them on Craig’s List.
On Oct. 18, 2013, a man in Warren told Warren police his personal information was used to obtain phones and cell service from AT&T Mobility that were shipped to an address in Putnam.
The invoice said the phones were billed to Ms. Benitez with her Sprint internal charge account, the report said.
On March 16, a man told Webster police his mail was being stolen from his rental property at 58 Whitcomb St., and a Sprint cellphone account had been opened in his name at the address.
On July 3, a Palmer man said he had been contacted by National Grid about a $600 electricity bill for service at 58 Whitcomb St. Apt. 2. At no time had he lived there.
On July 8, a man told Auburn police someone had used his information to obtain Charter Communications cable service at 58 Whitcomb St., Apt. 2. There was an outstanding bill for $1,056 for service and equipment that had not been returned.
On July 9, the caregiver for a Charlton man who can not speak told Charlton police that the man’s mother had received a collection notice seeking $1,078 for cable service in the man’s name at 58 Whitcomb St., Webster. The man had never lived in Webster.
On Sept. 2, police identified another alleged victim from Mount Olive, Mississippi, who said he has never been to Massachusetts. The investigation showed that the Mississippian had purportedly been living at 58 Whitcomb St. Apt. 2, and 61 Lake St., Apt R. The police report does not say how the man’s identity had been misused.
That same day, police spoke with Shrewsbury Housing Authority about a mentally handicapped man who had been living in their housing for 10-plus years. The investigation revealed that the man was said to be living at 58 Whitcomb St. The report does not say how the man’s identity was misused.
On Sept. 7, police spoke with the widow of a Delmar, New York, man who had died July 15, 2013. The widow was aware that her husband’s information had been compromised. He had been a patient at UMass, the report said.
That same day, Webster police spoke to two other widows whose spouses’ information had been used after their deaths.
Also on Sept. 7, police reached out to a man from Mendenhall, Mississippi. He was unaware that his information had been misused at addresses of Ms. Benitez, Ms. Elia and Mr. Amoh.
In addition, police spoke with the daughter of a UMass patient. Public database records showed that the patient, a resident of Hudson, was living at 308 High St., Ms. Benitez’s current address. The patient never lived in Webster. The report doesn’t say how the patient’s identity had been misused.
In May, the hospital system issued a statement saying that Ms. Benitez, a former hospital employee of 12 years, had accessed 2,400 patients’ files. She had been terminated.
On Sept. 10, investigators with a warrant searched Ms. Benitez’s High Street apartment.
A National Grid gas bill in the name of a friend of Ms. Elia and Mr. Amoh was seized.
The friend said she picked up phones for the couple at Walmart stores in Oxford and Putnam.
The friend also told investigators that Ms. Elia and Mr. Amoh had phones shipped to addresses on Thayer Street in Putnam.
A woman living at one of the Putnam addresses told police she allowed Ms. Elia and Mr. Amoh to have phones shipped to her residence. But the woman said she became suspicious and told them to stop.
By Brian Lee TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF