Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive

Five women charged in credit scam

At least 10 women are suspected of illegally setting up credit limits to buy up to $100,000 in merchandise in a statewide shopping spree, police say.

Five women have been charged, and investigators expect other arrests in the 1{-year scam that stretched from St. Petersburg to Orlando.

"All of them either know each other or at least know of each other," said St. Petersburg Police Detective Rod Frankland. "Three of them are either sisters or they're cousins."

Detectives learned that the women, who receive public assistance funding or live in public housing, kept some merchandise and sold some.

They bought stereo equipment, televisions, clothes, a baby stroller and other items, police say. They shopped Montgomery Wards, JCPenney, Lerner Shops, Roberds Furniture and Home Depot.

The scam was not sophisticated, police say. The women had someone supplying them names and Social Security numbers. The women then would go to stores and fill out applications for instant credit.

They would use their own first names, then list the last names and Social Security numbers. If a clerk asked to see identification and asked why the last names were different, the women would say they recently had married.

The stores would grant lines of credit between $1,000 and $3,000. "They would get up from filling out the application and walk into the stores and start using the credit," Frankland said.

Of those arrested, Cynthia Henderson of 4512 10th Ave. S in St. Petersburg, faces the most charges. She was jailed Oct. 5 on charges of grand theft, forgery and scheme to defraud. She was released without bail Oct. 10. Others have been charged with uttering forged instruments, fraudulent use of credit cards or grant theft, records show. They, too, have been released from jail.

Police continue to investigate how the women were getting names and Social Security numbers to use on the credit applications, Frankland said. "We're trying to determine if there's an inside person involved some place," he said.