A New York City woman, who is charged with stealing $6,500 from a Shelburne bank account, needs to remain in prison pending her trial in federal court on four counts of bank fraud and a charge of aggravated identity theft, a judge has ruled.
Elizabeth Rodriguez, 57, has amassed 12 felony fraud convictions and has used at least 16 known aliases, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Boscia said in U.S. District Court on Friday afternoon.
Boscia argued Rodriguez, also known Elizabeth Ortega, has a propensity for crime and is a risk to flee to avoid her trial. He also noted that when she was arrested Rodriguez had a counterfeit driver’s license with her picture, but with the name of the woman with the targeted bank account. Rodriguez somehow had learned the victim’s social security number and had it written on a sheet of paper in her pocket, the prosecutor said.
Boscia said Rodriguez also was arrested in early February in West Palm Beach, Fla., for trying to take money from another nearby TD Bank branch. He said Rodriguez does not have a valid license or car, but got a friend to drive her to Vermont, where the latest bank fraud happened.
Federal Magistrate John M. Conroy said he was struck “by what can be described as an extraordinary (criminal) record.” He said most people by their mid-50s have stopped criminal activity, but Rodriguez is still getting arrested on serious charges. Conroy said her felony convictions also were spread over New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania and there was no known reason for her to be in Vermont.
Defense lawyer Michael Shklar maintained Rodriguez was a lifelong resident of New York City with her two adult children close, Shklar said. Her son, Glenn, lives with Rodriguez and her daughter, who was in court to support her mother, resides nearby, Shklar said. While Rodriguez had no ties to Vermont, she has no place to flee and no money to become a fugitive.
He also downplayed the fake photo driver’s license, noting that they can be purchased at storefronts in Times Square.
Conroy said the government had proven a need that she be jailed and ordered the U.S. Marshals Service to return her to prison pending trial.
Rodriguez was initially detained Feb. 23 when Chester Police arrested her as she tried to make a withdrawal at a bank in the Windsor County community. An attentive teller at the Chester bank recognized her from a fraud alert issued by TD Bank after two bogus withdrawals at branches in Chittenden County a week earlier, police said.
Rodriguez had made two illegal withdrawals in Chittenden County on Feb. 16, police said. They said Rodriguez received $5,200 from the TD Bank branch in Richmond and $6,500 from its branch in Shelburne.
One week later Chester Police said they arrested her inside the South Main Street bank trying to make a $4,200 withdrawal. Investigation also showed she tried about two hours earlier that day to improperly withdraw $4,000 from the TD Bank in Woodstock but was denied, records show.
Because of the widespread nature of the bank crime, Rodriguez’ criminal record, and her use of multiple aliases, police said they asked the U.S. Secret Service Office in Burlington to step in. Investigators are trying to determine if there were other attempts.
She was initially held for lack of $250,000 bail on state charges, including being a habitual offender, which carried a potential life sentence. Chester Police also arrested her on charges of identity theft, false personation and false pretenses.
A federal grand jury indicted Rodriguez on five felony charges March 15. Four of the felony charges focus on the stops she made at the banks in Shelburne, Richmond, Woodstock and Chester. The fifth count is aggravated identity theft on Feb. 23 because Rodriguez unlawfully possessed and used identification documents belonging to another person while committing the bank fraud in Chester, the indictment said.
Shelburne and Richmond Police have said they are seeking state charges against Rodriguez, but those may be put on hold until the outcome of her federal case is known.