VISALIA – A Visalia woman was running a prolific identity theft business out of a car just to keep up with her drug habit.
On March 5, Tulare County Superior Court Judge Gary Paden sentenced 27-year-old Jessica Murphy to 12 years in state prison for financial and drug crimes. On Jan. 29, Murphy pleaded to 84 counts of identity theft with the special allegation of having been convicted of a prior identity theft, one count of mail theft, one count of possession of a controlled substance, and one count of possession for sales. Each count is a felony. Murphy possesses a prior strike conviction for first-degree burglary in April 2018.
Assistant District Attorney David Alavezos said all of the crimes happened between May and November of last year in Visalia while Murphy was on probation for the burglary. When she was arrested on Nov. 10, officers from the Visalia Police Department searched an abandoned vehicle in an alley on Garden Street and found numerous pieces of personal identifying information meticulously organized in binders along with checks, vehicle registrations, cell phones, a smart tablet, various keys, and a mobile card reader. Two days later, officers found Murphy in another car with syringes, glass pipes, pills, and methamphetamine, along with additional personal identifying information.
“She used people’s information as a form of currency,” Alavezos said. “Then she would trade it for drugs she would either buy or sell.”
During a subsequent police interview, Murphy explained to officers her history of being a “profiler.” Murphy stated she would receive stolen mail and other stolen personal identifying information, put the information in binders, and sell the profiles to other people to help support her drug addiction. In the course of the investigation, multiple Visalia Police Department detectives were able to contact 85 victims whose personal information was in Murphy’s possession.
Assistant DA Alavezos said it was difficult to know how much money or property was stolen from the victims but he said it is far too easy for criminals to get your information. Once a thief has stolen mail, they can put your name to an address, which can then easily be parlayed into your date of birth, a gateway piece of information that can give thieves access to emails, passwords, credit cards, etc. In one instance, Murphy actually went into one of the victims’ garages and stolen paperwork with important personal information.
“I think locked mailboxes are a good idea at this point,” Alavezos said. “People also need to get into the habit of shredding their documents.”