Hospice worker faces charges for stealing patient’s informationA hospice worker accused of stealing a patient’s credit card information faces arraignment
By: Maria Lockwood, The Daily Telegram
A hospice worker accused of stealing a patient’s credit card information faces arraignment on an identity theft charge following a preliminary hearing in Douglas County Circuit Court today.
Rebecca Lee Friebe, 48, of Superior faces one count party to the crime of identity theft for financial gain although, according to testimony given today, she did not use the numbers herself.
Family members of the Lake Nebagamon woman whose credit card information was stolen reported more than $1,500 in charges had been made against three different credit cards in late November and early December 2006, according to the criminal complaint. The majority of the charges were made after the patient died. They included $600 to an online gambling service, hundreds of dollars worth of Simon Property Group gift cards and time on a Virgin Mobile phone account. In addition, the woman’s Younker’s card was used and her signature forged for a $206 purchase at the Superior store two days before her death.
The crux of the case was testimony from Jennifer Lynn Keeler, 35, who has already been convicted of attempted misdemeanor theft for using the credit card numbers. Keeler, of Superior, shot off rapid-fire answers during questioning, often not waiting to hear the entire question.
She told the court that Friebe gave her two separate credit card numbers over the phone.
“I figured they were stolen,” Keeler said, but she went on to use them for gift cards, online gambling and time on her cell phone.
Keeler said she did not pay Friebe for the information and that nobody received any benefit from the theft. She also emphatically testified that she did not use the victim’s Younker’s card.
Keeler’s testimony at times contradicted statements that, according to the criminal complaint, she gave to law enforcement officers. She admitted lying to officers when she was originally questioned and has delayed the preliminary hearing with two missed court appearances.
“Isn’t it true that you lied repeatedly throughout the course of the investigation?” asked Friebe’s attorney, public defender Leslie Dollen. “Why should the court believe your testimony now?”
“I don’t know,” Keeler answered.
Dollen opposed the bind-over, saying the entire case rested upon Keeler’s “incredible” testimony.
“The threshold (to find probable cause) is low, nevertheless there is a threshold,” Dollen said.
“Certainly Ms. Keeler does not walk into this court with clean hands,” said Assistant District Attorney Kelly Thimm. But Keeler admitted she did not know the victim or any member of her family.
“The defendant herself is the link between the victim’s credit card and Ms. Keeler and what Ms. Keeler did with the information,” he said. “She had to get the information from somewhere.”
Court Commissioner Paul Baxter found probable cause to bind Friebe over for arraignment April 7.
Call Maria Lockwood at call (715) 395-5025 or e-mail email@example.com.