A Ferndale woman was arrested at a bank Wednesday, March 2, while allegedly dressed as her dead mother to advance a pension-fraud scheme that netted her more than $145,000.
Loewen B. Craft, 59, was wearing the disguise, including a gray wig, as she arrived at an Industrial Credit Union branch in Ferndale to complete paperwork for an account she opened in her dead mother's name and social security number, Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo said in a press release.
Unbeknownst to Craft, Sheriff's Detective John Allgire, who had been investigating her alleged scheme, and other deputies were waiting.
They arrested her on suspicion of first-degree identity theft, criminal impersonation and multiple counts of forgery, Elfo said in the release.
Never miss a local story.
She was booked into the Whatcom County Jail, where she remained Friday in lieu of $25,000 bail.
Craft's mother, Betty Becker, died in 2007, and Craft allegedly began collecting Becker's retirement benefits after that, Elfo said.
Craft was able to fraudulently obtain $145,339 from the Chevron Oil pension fund through this scheme, he said.
Craft, who filed for bankruptcy in 2002, established a false identity for her mother prior to that woman's death. That allowed Craft to perpetrate the scheme after her mother died, Elfo said.
Chevron officials became suspicious of Craft in 2009 after checking Becker's name with a federal registry of deceased people and finding the name listed, Elfo said.
Craft, however, found a way around that: She allegedly donned the disguise, complete with a gray wig and makeup to make her look older, and obtained a Washington state identification card in Becker's name, Elfo said.
Elfo said Craft entered financial institutions in 2009 and 2010 to notarize documents while posing as her dead mother.
The scheme began to unravel when Allgire started investigating an unrelated arson case, Elfo said.
He learned that Becker had been admitted to St. Joseph hospital in 2007 and in fact died on April 23, 2007.
Allgire investigated more and notified Chevron officials of the fraud. They froze Craft's accounts, which led her to open the Industrial Credit Union account on Feb. 22, Elfo said.
ICU officials helped in the arrest of Craft by asking her to come to the branch and fill out more paperwork; Allgire and the other deputies were waiting, Elfo said.