- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 15, 2004

BALTIMORE (AP) — Authorities have charged five men, including a Navy petty officer based in Virginia, in connection with a ring that purchased thousands of dollars worth of merchandise from local stores using the stolen identities of Navy officers.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Curtis L. Phillips, 27, has been charged with violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice in connection with the identity theft case, a Navy spokesman said.

Petty Officer Phillips, who has been with the Navy for four years, is stationed aboard the USS George Washington, an aircraft carrier based in Norfolk, said Mike Maus, spokesman for the Naval Air Force Atlantic Fleet.

The carrier returned in July from a six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf.

Petty Officer Phillips will face an Article 32 hearing — the military equivalent of a grand jury hearing — on Sept. 23, Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Cappy Surette said. He could be court-martialed if the hearing finds enough evidence to proceed with the investigation.

Authorities suspect that between June and November last year, five men from the Baltimore area fraudulently used the identities of about 20 Navy officers aboard the George Washington to obtain credit accounts at stores such as Home Depot and Target.

The five men also have been charged with fraudulently using the identities of at least five patients who used Quest Diagnostics lab testing.

A Quest employee, Darren G. Rogers, 21, was charged in April with stealing the identities of those patients. Baltimore County police said they are investigating whether Petty Officer Phillips stole the identities of the Navy officers.

The military violations that Petty Officer Phillips is charged with include larceny of a car, larceny of a motorcycle, making a fraudulent purchase more than $100, wrongfully using a government computer and theft, Mr. Maus said Tuesday.

He said the charges stem from incidents in October, but he did not provide details.

Authorities are still deciding where to prosecute the men involved in the identity theft case.

Mr. Rogers and the four other civilians who were arrested and charged in April in Baltimore County could be prosecuted locally or federally, said county police spokesman Bill Toohey. Some of the illegal purchases were made in Fairfax County.

Petty Officer Phillips could be prosecuted under military law or under civilian law, Mr. Maus said.

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