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Identity theft victims are elderly in St. Petersburg student loan scheme

ST. PETERSBURG — Bob Andelman wasn't just shocked that someone would steal the identity of his 80-year-old mother-in-law to get a loan.

What was more shocking to him was how poorly executed the fraud was — and how easily everyone fell for it.

"They put a picture of a young blond woman onto my mother-in-law's photo ID," he said. "But they left all the other information the same.

"The birthday says 1928."

And what kind of loan was 80-year-old Helga Holsten's name used to obtain?

A student loan, police said.

The fraud was perpetrated by Risha Renee Shaw, according to St. Petersburg police, who arrested her Friday on two counts of exploitation of the elderly and two counts of identity theft. Shaw, 30, was being held at the Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $40,000 bail.

Holsten, who died in September, wasn't the only victim. Police said a fraudulent student loan also was obtained using the identity of an 83-year-old man whom officers did not name.

Shaw was a nurse to both victims, and police said that's how she obtained their information. She got $15,000 to $18,000 in bad loans from Sallie Mae to pay for a real degree, police said.

Shaw graduated Nov. 20 from Keiser Career College in St. Petersburg as a licensed practical nurse.

It took months, Andelman said, but Sallie Mae removed the loan from Holsten's credit. Her daughter, Mimi Andelman, is an editor at the St. Petersburg Times.

Sallie Mae did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

"All of the document work was incredibly sloppy," Bob Andelman said. "My mother-in-law's name was written differently on every piece of paper. Any idiot could have picked up that there was something wrong with these applications.

"Or I guess almost any idiot."

Identity theft victims are elderly in St. Petersburg student loan scheme 03/20/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 20, 2009 10:17pm]
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