Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cafemom Nanny charged for theft

A former nanny for a township couple was arrested for sending $850 worth of clothing belonging to twin boys in her charge to a Texas woman she met online.

Township police Detective William Behre arrested Donna Crowe, 24, of Wyckoff and a law student at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, on Tuesday, Jan. 6, after she allegedly sent clothing to an expectant Cypress, Texas woman after chatting with her online on an Internet Web site,

The alleged clothing theft came to light after police began investigating a tip from a friend of the family’s in August that indicated that Crowe was impersonating the mother of the twins on by posting pictures of the boys and the family’s house, both the interior and the exterior, as her own.

Crowe also posted a picture of an unidentified couple and claimed the photos were of herself and her husband, according to authorities..

“We didn’t look to hard to find the unknown couples identity, but I can tell you Crowe does not resemble the woman in the photo,” said Behre. “The photos were probably gotten online.”

At that point, the family fired Crowe and the police began investigating the incident

Behre said the police immediately became involved because postings on the chat Web site indicated Crowe would like to meet some of the other chat room mothers at a central location, possibly Canada, with the family’s twin children in tow.

“We became involved because we were afraid of an abduction,” said Behre. “I immediately got an account on the Web site and got in touch with other mothers on the site telling them that I was a Chatham Township police detective investigating Crowe.

What A Web Weaved?

Not believing that Crowe had stolen another woman’s identity, Behre was lambasted with emails, phone calls and postings from Internet mothers saying he was way off base.

“I got several phone calls, more emails and postings online reaming me, telling me that I didn’t know what I was talking about,” said Behre. “But after explaining the situation to them, they came around.”

To Behre’s surprise, the women began investigating Crowe, he said, and did findinconsistencies.

“They finally came around,” he said.

After a three-month-long investigation, Behre learned that used clothing belonging to the twin children, which had been stored away in the Chatham home, had been sent by Crowe to the expectant mother in Texas.

Crowe and the Texas woman had become friendly on the Internet chat site, as well, Behre learned.

Crowe used the same fraudulent profile with the Texas woman as she had when she represented herself as the mother of the township twins.

Although the Internet incident was frightening to the parents of the twins and concerning to detectives, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office could not find a criminal charge that would fit the Internet impersonation, said Behre.

“We did spend much time talking with the prosecutor because we hoped that we could charge her with some crime due to her Internet activities,” said Behre. “However, there was no appropriate crime to suit the fraud she perpetrated online. We were disappointed.”

During this time, the Texas woman returned the clothing to the police and the family identified it as belonging to their twin children.

Crowe was charged with theft, processed and released after posting $500 in bail. A court date is still pending.

A sidebar to the story was an interesting posting Behre found while investigating Crowe online. It was a posting that, he said, he could not confirm.

“There is really no way to know if this is the same Donna Crowe, but it certainly is interesting,” said Behre.

An adoption Web site posting dated Dec. 3, 2002, told of a Donna Crowe, then 18-years-old, who had posed as an unwed mother looking for adoptive parents for her infant girl.

Warnings were posted from that read, “If anyone has heard from or hears from Donna Crowe from New Jersey - she probably won’t use/give you a last name. She is 18 and said she was due with a girl Nov. 14. Had talked with her for four months. She is NOT pregnant.”

The woman went on to post that Crowe was very sorry for her untruthful actions and would never do it again because she was in counseling.

Updating her written post the adoptionscams woman said she had found other prospective adoptive parents that had been scammed by the 18-year-old Donna Crowe. The woman said she had fooled those couples, as well. She also found that Crowe was using the name Kate, as well.

“Her story was virtually the same except for the different name and twins instead of single birth,” the woman wrote. “Please beware, she is very articulate and convincing.”

The Law

In 2008, New York state Gov. David A. Paterson signed into law an Internet impersonation bill as an amendment to its penal code making it a crime to impersonate another person by electronic means, such as the Internet, to either injure or defraud another person or benefit them.

The law was designed to stop a plethora of impersonation cases on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, among others.

According to the New Jersey State Police, the state has no specific Internet impersonation statute, however the state does have a lawful slot for identity theft under the state’s wrongful impersonation law, which says the crime “escalates from a disorderly persons offense to a crime when the total monetary values for the goods or services that were defrauded exceeds $200.”

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