Juneau woman pleads guilty to charges of identity theft

Marthaller accused of victimizing 10 people

Posted: Friday, September 02, 2005

A 48-year-old Juneau woman pleaded guilty Thursday to identity-theft charges that alleged she had acquired a credit card using another woman's information.

Susan M. Marthaller was accused in court documents of victimizing 10 people, although the charges pursued by the Juneau District Attorney's Office included only two victims.

Attorneys told Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins they agreed that restitution would be ordered for other victims that came to light during the investigation. Defense attorney James Curtain told the judge the total she will have to repay has yet to be proven.

"We put many hundreds of hours into the case," Juneau Police Capt. Tom Porter said later. Identity theft is less common in Juneau, but in the rest of the country it has been on the rise, he added. "This is one of the first big ones we've had."

Tips on avoiding identity theft

• Don't throw away mail unopened. It might contain personal information.

• Acquire a personal shredding machine and shred mail documents that contain personal information.

• Make arrangements to have mail picked up when you are not going to be home.

• If you don't get something in the mail you expect, such as a package or a bill, contact the sender and postal authorities.

• Contact police if you see anything suspicious that leads you to believe someone might be stealing your identity.

Marthaller, a district ranger for the U.S. Forest Service, according to court records, pleaded guilty to criminal impersonation, fraud and theft. The agreement to resolve the case with the plea to the three felonies leaves sentencing up to the judge.

Collins scheduled sentencing for Oct. 17. The criminal impersonation charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Each of the other charges could carry sentences of up to five years.

The defendant has no prior felony convictions, Curtain said.

Thursday's hearing was the first time Marthaller appeared before a judge in the case. She agreed to have the case remanded to Superior Court without going before a grand jury to determine if there was sufficient evidence.

Assistant District Attorney Doug Gardner said he did not object to Marthaller remaining free from custody until sentencing.

Curtain said Marthaller plans to write letters of apology to the victims.

The woman Marthaller is charged with impersonating alleged courtesy checks on her Bank of America credit card account were stolen from her mailbox while she was out of town late last year, according to court documents. She later reported that she arrived home to find a message on her answering machine informing her that she had applied for an American Express card and later reported someone had applied for a Capital One card in her name and charged $4,411 to the account.

Porter said people need to be careful about their mail, especially bills and credit applications. Many places have gone to locking group mailboxes, he said. It's not only a convenience for the post office, but it provides more security, he said.

He also recommends people buy personal shredders to dispose of bills and "junk mail" that contain personal information.

"It's amazing, the stuff people can learn about you by going through the garbage," Porter said.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.

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