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Thief pleads guilty to credit card fraud

By Gary V. Murray TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
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WORCESTER- A 55-year-old Sutton woman described by a prosecutor as a "professional con woman" and "serial grifter" was sentenced to 5 to 7 years in state prison yesterday after pleading guilty to using stolen credit card numbers to buy nearly $100,000 worth of jewelry.

While on probation on unrelated larceny and receiving stolen property charges, Charlotte A. Boehm obtained customers' credit card information through her job at Potpourri Group Inc. in Northbridge and used it to purchase $94,826 worth of gemstones and jewelry from GemsTV, a television and Internet home shopping retailer, according to Assistant District Attorney John A. O'Leary.

The prosecutor told Judge John S. McCann during a plea hearing in Worcester Superior Court that Ms. Boehm, formerly of Hopedale and Milford, used "throwaway" phones she bought using aliases to order the merchandise and had it shipped to vacant properties, where she would accept delivery after identifying herself as the person whose credit card was used.

Ms. Boehm pleaded guilty yesterday to related charges that included eight counts of larceny of property worth more than $250, a dozen counts of identity fraud, seven counts of receiving stolen property and four counts of attempted larceny, crimes committed from July 2007 through January of this year.

Mr. O'Leary said a Sutton police investigation led to search warrants for a hotel room in Sutton where Ms. Boehm was staying, as well as a safe deposit box and self-storage unit. Items recovered by investigators included medical records in other people's names from three area hospitals, an official Uxbridge District Court case file, jewelry and gemstones and other merchandise believed to have been stolen, still in the original packaging.

Judge McCann sentenced Ms. Boehm to 5 to 7 years imprisonment with 10 years of probation to follow, the sentence recommended by Mr. O'Leary. Citing her 13-page criminal record, Judge McCann said he would have exceeded the prosecutor's sentencing recommendation if he could have done so without allowing Ms. Boehm to withdraw her guilty pleas and go to trial.

"This is one of the most outrageous and untenable cases that has ever come across my desk," the judge said before adjudicating Ms. Boehm a common and notorious thief and receiver of stolen property. The findings increased the maximum sentence Ms. Boehm could have received on a single larceny count from 5 to 20 years imprisonment and from 5 to 10 years on each of the receiving stolen property charges.

Ms. Boehm pleaded guilty June 25 to charges of using personal information from a cancer patient's stolen medical records to buy about $2,500 worth of collectible coins from a home shopping network and using her sister's identity to set up utility accounts and run up bills totaling more than $1,300.

Judge McCann placed Ms. Boehm on a concurrent term of probation on those charges yesterday, as well as for a violation of probation from her 2006 conviction for larceny and receiving stolen property. Her arrest in the 2006 case came two years earlier, when she was found in a Leominster motel room with what police said was an estimated $100,000 worth of stolen merchandise.

In support of his sentencing recommendation, Mr. O'Leary said Ms. Boehm had a criminal record that included convictions spanning three decades in Massachusetts, Maine and Connecticut.

"She's been a multi-decade menace to society, institutions, the public at-large," said the prosecutor.

Ms. Boehm's lawyer, Christopher P. LoConto, recommended she be sentenced to 3 years in the House of Correction. Mr. LoConto referred to an evaluation by a licensed social worker that indicated his client, a 1975 graduate of the University of Tulsa, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder five years ago and suffered from a lack of self-esteem.

Judge McCann noted many law-abiding people suffer from bipolar disorder.

The judge also rejected Mr. LoConto's suggestion Ms. Boehm's mental illness would have prevented her from orchestrating the crimes with which she was charged.

"There's no way that she's the sole person involved," Mr. LoConto said.

"She, to me, is the mastermind of this," Judge McCann responded.

Allowed to address the court, Ms. Boehm spoke of the difficulties she had encountered while being held at Framingham State Prison awaiting trial, including being forced to live in what she called "a walk-in closet with a toilet in it."

She also apologized for her criminal behavior, which she suggested was compulsive.

"I just wanted to say that I'm sorry to the people I harmed," she said.

http://www.telegram.com/article/20080821/NEWS/808210815/1116
 
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