Mobile bank bandit busted in Frisco
Cynthia Johnson’s 27 counts
1 count: Racketeering, violation of Colorado’s Organized Crime Control Act
2 counts: Identity Theft
4 counts: Forgery
2 counts: Unauthorized use of a financial transaction device
2 counts: Criminal Impersonation
1 count: Theft
1 count: Criminal attempt to commit theft
4 counts: Possession of a forged instrument
1 count: Attempt to influence a public servant
9 counts: Habitual criminal
96 years: possible sentence if Jackson is convicted of everything, and receives the maximum sentence
EAGLE — Doing the same thing the same way all the time makes you consistent. If you’re an alleged criminal, it also makes you easier to catch.
Cynthia Johnson faces 27 felony counts, so far, after she allegedly forged drivers licenses and other identification, used forged credit cards to get cash from local banks and was part of a group of others doing the same thing … the same way.
When Silverthorne police arrested Vanessa Ravare on Oct. 21, Ravare admitted working on the bank scams with Johnson, court documents said.
Heidi McCollum, assistant district attorney, said there may be other victims and other perpetrators.
“Fraud effects are widespread, undermining our trust in banks and raising costs for everybody,” McCollum said. “Diligent coordination among law enforcement agencies in this complex, multi-county investigation, with skill and persistence, has led to these two arrests. We continue to seek other suspects who are at large.”
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The crime spree allegedly stretched along Interstate 70 from Frisco to Fruita and began in early September and lasted about a month and a half, according to police reports. Between Sept. 3 and Oct. 15, Johnson and others stopped at Alpine banks and other institutions and, using a forged drivers license and a forged Capital One Visa credit card, got thousands of dollars in cash advances, according to police.
The investigation says Johnson used the exact same method to steal money from Alpine Bank’s Rifle branch ($4,500.72), Avon branch ($4,850) and Dillon branch ($4,500).
Alpine Bank reported to prosecutors that it lost $37,000. Other reports are still rolling in, McCollum said.
Two with one
On the afternoon of Sept. 3, Johnson tried to use a Capital One Visa credit card to get cash from Alpine Bank in Avon. When the card was declined, a bank employee got on the phone, called the number on the back of the card and was told the card was declined because the owner had not informed them of her travel plans, according to police. The person on the phone confirmed Johnson’s identity, and the bank did an override on the card.
Johnson allegedly signed the withdrawal slip as Deborah Brendel, one of her many aliases, and walked out of the bank with $4,850.
Several weeks later, Capital One told Alpine Bank that the card was fictitious and that Capital One had no records of Deborah Brendel, or that account number.
According to Capital One, it’s an often-used scam. The phone number on the back of the fictitious credit goes to an accomplice posing as a credit card company employee, who then authorizes the cash advance. On Oct. 14, Johnson allegedly walked into Alpine Bank in Frisco to get cash, using the same forged drivers license bearing Brendel’s name, and the same fictitious Capital One credit card. Frisco police arrested her.
16 aliases, 5 birth dates
Initially, Johnson denied any involvement with the Avon theft. However, surveillance photos and video indicated otherwise.
The Summit County jail emailed a booking mug shot of Johnson to Avon police, who turned out to be the same woman who stole money in Avon. When police ran a quick criminal record check, they discovered Johnson had used at least 16 aliases and five different birth dates, some claiming she’s 61 years old.
Johnson’s fingerprints indicate that she is actually 49 years old, born June 21, 1966, and lists her address as Los Angeles. Just to make sure, Greg Daly, assistant chief with the Avon Police Department, called the customer service number on the back of one of the forged credit cards, and no one answered. A minute or so later, Daly said he received a return call from a man saying he had no connection with Capital One but had been receiving calls from banks and police departments for “several months.”
Johnson’s carnival of felony convictions stretches up and down the California coast, and back to 1996. She was on probation from Santa Clara County, California, but violated her probation less than a year after her release from Folsom Prison in June 2014. Last April, 10 months after her release from Folsom, she was arrested for cashing a bad check in Alameda County, California.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.