Red Cross volunteer held in debit card theft
2 charged with taking $230K meant for Katrina victims
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DALLAS, Texas (CNN) -- A Red Cross volunteer and his sister are charged with stealing almost a quarter-million dollars in debit cards intended for Hurricane Katrina victims, U.S. Attorney Richard Roper said Tuesday.
Brian Hines, 20, and Charmaine Hines, 32, were jailed Tuesday after they surrendered and went before a U.S. magistrate in Texas. They are charged with using the stolen debit cards and have confessed to investigators, according to an affidavit.
If convicted, they each face a maximum of 10 years in prison and $250,000 fines for each count. The U.S. Attorney's Office has 30 days to obtain an indictment, which could include several counts apiece for the siblings, said Kathy Colvin, a spokeswoman for Roper's office.
Red Cross computer technician Alex Rhodes told federal authorities that Hines had volunteered to help him research missing Red Cross debit cards in September, the affidavit states.
Rhodes noticed that Hines kept a small piece of paper in his hand that he would suspiciously crumple whenever Rhodes approached, according to a statement from Roper's office.
Rhodes discovered later that the paper contained numbers consistent with the numbers on a series of missing debit cards, and one of the missing account numbers had been activated for $4,695, "an unusual amount according to the Red Cross employee," Roper's office said.
After learning that approximately 100 cards were missing, Rhodes was notified by the Red Cross' national office that half of those cards had been activated, most of them with a value of $4,695.
On November 2, a Red Cross employee watched Hines make a transaction at a bank drive-through in Dallas with what the employee suspected was a stolen debit card.
A few days later, Roper's office said, a U.S. postal inspector and Secret Service agent interviewed Hines, who admitted to using the cards to withdraw large amounts of cash from Dallas-area teller machines. He also admitted giving 20-25 of the cards to his sister and her boyfriend, officials said.
Hines told investigators he bought jewelry for himself and for his girlfriend, vehicles for friends and family, and he gave several gifts of cash, clothing, shoes and jewelry, Roper's office said.
Further questioning determined that Hines had stolen at least 100 cards -- known as "client-assistance cards" -- from various locations, some with the help of security guards, Roper's office said. He then activated them and loaded them with bogus values, officials said.
"When law enforcement interviewed Charmaine Denise Hines, she admitted that her brother had given her several stolen Red Cross debit cards and that she fraudulently used the cards to obtain large amounts of cash," Roper's office said.
Authorities are continuing their investigation, and it is possible that the total is more than the $230,000 estimated by the Red Cross, Roper's office said.
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