Eric Christopher Thorsen
Amy Ruth Bergquist
Couple's sex ads on craigslist: A setup for ID theft
- Article by: DAN BROWNING
- Star Tribune
- April 24, 2008 - 11:31 PM
An Eagan couple may have come up with a novel way to use the Internet bulletin board craigslist.
Eric Christopher Thorsen, 25, and Amy Ruth Bergquist, 30, appeared in federal court Thursday on charges that they have been advertising for sex partners on craigslist so that they could pick the pockets of those who responded. Then, they allegedly used stolen identification, checks or bank records to buy merchandise and prescription painkillers.
A 23-year-old Minneapolis man explained Thursday how he fell victim to the alleged scheme, on the condition he not be identified unless he's called to testify against them.
After a night of drinking in September, he said, he browsed craigslist personal ads and found one from a couple in their 20s seeking male or female sex partners. He called.
When Thorsen and a woman showed up at his door, he said, she did not look like the woman in the Internet posting, but he let them in anyway.
"It was the stupidest thing I could have done -- for a number of reasons," he said.
He said the three of them were "fooling around" when Thorsen excused himself to use the bathroom. Thorsen returned and said they had to be going, the man said.
Wallet was missing
He realized later that his jacket was hanging in the open, and when he checked the pocket, he discovered his wallet was missing. He reported the incident to Minneapolis police.
Weeks later, the man told a Roseville detective investigating a similar incident that he had found fraudulent charges on his stolen credit cards, including some made at an Apple Store and a Best Buy store.
He gave investigators photos from the craigslist posting. Roseville police records say one of the photos appeared to match a Best Buy surveillance photo.
The man said his bank eventually took care of $1,400 in bogus charges. But that's not the worst thing that happened, he said. "He printed my name on completely made-up checks, which he passed all over the place. So I got notes from collection agencies. I'm still trying to sort out my credit!"
In a search warrant affidavit, Roseville police Sgt. Erika Scheider said a South Carolina man reported that someone used a stolen credit card to order several Gateway computers. They were shipped to a UPS Store in Roseville rented in the name of the Minneapolis victim. Investigators found fraudulent checks printed in the name of the South Carolina man at the UPS store.
Passing forged checks
Police intercepted Bergquist Sept. 29, when she arrived to pick up the checks. She agreed to cooperate in the investigation, Scheider said, and Thorsen was arrested at the Double Tree Hotel in St. Louis Park. The room was rented in the name of the Minneapolis man.
"Thorsen admitted to fraudulently creating checks and then passing the forged checks throughout the metro," Scheider wrote. "Thorsen said he was able to steal people's identity through various means, including people he met on [craigslist]."
Thorsen said he was addicted to anti-depressants, Berquist said. The indictment unsealed Thursday charged Thorsen and Bergquist with one count each of conspiracy, document trafficking and aggravated identity theft.
According to the indictment, they continued to meet people through craigslist and steal their identification as recently as March 9. The indictment identifies six victims by their initials. Four are adult males, and two are adult females.
The indictment says Thorsen paid for two forged prescriptions for Adderall and Dexedrine using a counterfeit check in the name of one of his victims.
The federal case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Secret Service, the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force and the Roseville Police Department, with help from other local law enforcement agencies.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan ordered Thorsen, who is unemployed, held in custody pending a Tuesday detention hearing and arraignment. Bergquist, a licensed practical nurse, was released pending arraignment.
Dan Browning • 612-673-4493
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