Bank fraud, identity theft charges lead to plea agreement

A New York City woman who is facing fraud charges at four banks – including for the theft of $6,500 from a Shelburne bank – has struck a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, court records show.

Elizabeth Rodriguez, 57, is expected to receive a 3 ½-year federal prison sentence in exchange for her two guilty pleas to bank fraud and aggravated identity theft counts, according to a plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court in Burlington.

Police officers in Chester, Vt., arrested Rodriguez as she attempted to withdraw $4,200 from the TD Bank on South Main Street on Feb. 23, officials said. About two hours earlier, she had tried to illegally withdraw $4,000 from the TD Bank in Woodstock, but was denied, records show.

A week earlier Rodriguez had made two illegal withdrawals from TD Bank branches in Chittenden County: $6,500 in Shelburne and $5,200 in Richmond, police said.

Rodriguez has pleaded not guilty to four fraud counts at the banks in Shelburne, Richmond, Woodstock and Chester, records show. Rodriguez also was charged with one count of aggravated identity theft on Feb. 23 because she unlawfully possessed and used identification documents belonging to another person while committing the bank fraud in Chester, the indictment said.

No date has been set for the change of plea hearing.

Rodriguez has a criminal record that includes 12 felony fraud convictions and the use of at least 16 known aliases, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Boscia has said.

Boscia and defense lawyer, Michael Shklar, have proposed that Rodriguez serve 18 months for the fraud charge from Chester, followed by a mandatory consecutive term of two years, the plea agreement notes.

It will be up to the sentencing judge to determine any fine, restitution and the term of supervised release upon discharge from prison, the agreement said.

Rodriguez could be imprisoned for up to 30 years for the bank fraud count involving the Chester bank, followed by up to 5 years on supervised released and a up to a $1 million fine. The identity theft count is punishable by a mandatory and consecutive sentence of two years in prison, one year of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.

She also can be ordered to provide restitution to the crime victims.

The plea agreement states that Rodriguez said she is making the deal under her own free will. The agreement says that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has agreed to dismiss the other three felony charges and not to prosecute Rodriguez for other criminal offenses known by the government.

Because of the widespread nature of the bank crimes, Rodriguez’ criminal record, her use of multiple aliases, police said they asked the U.S. Secret Service Office in Burlington to assist with the case.

Rodriguez has been detained since her arrest – first on state charges, and later on the federal indictment.

Boscia maintained Rodriguez, also known Elizabeth Ortega, had a propensity for crime and was a risk to flee to avoid her trial. Rodriguez – when arrested — had a counterfeit driver’s license with her picture, but with the name of the woman with the targeted bank account, Chester Police said.

Rodriguez somehow had learned the victim’s social security number and had it written on a sheet of paper in her pocket, Boscia said.

The prosecutor said Rodriguez also was arrested in early February in West Palm Beach, Fla. for trying to take money from another nearby TD Bank branch.

Federal Magistrate John M. Conroy said he was struck “by what can be described as an extraordinary (criminal) record.”

Conroy said most criminals by their mid-50s have stopped unlawful activity, but Rodriguez was still ringing up serious charges. Conroy noted that 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.

The defense wanted Rodriguez released because she was a lifelong resident of New York City with her two adult children close. Her son, Glenn, lives with Rodriguez, and her daughter lives nearby, Shklar said.

Conroy rejected the idea and ordered her held by the U.S. Marshals Service.

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