WCSO: ‘Guard against people you know’

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Fla. – Washington County Sheriff Kevin Crews says the recent arrest in a December fraud case highlights the issue of “familiar fraud”.

“Familiar fraud” occurs when a friend, extended family member or even a parent uses a close relationship for their own financial gain. The thief takes advantage of bonds of trust, making the crime hard to measure — and emotionally devastating.

A call came into the Washington County Communication Center on December 16, 2020 in reference to a fraud. The victims in the case stated they were aware someone had stolen their personal information when they began receiving mail from different credit card companies denying them for credit cards. The victims found this quite odd as they themselves had not applied for the cards.

The victims had previously enlisted the help of their daughter-in-law, 59-year-old, Mayda Heller, to set up a new account on one of their credit cards due to a previous scam. The victims asked their son for help in this matter as well. After further investigation, the son realized the address listed was none other than an address his wife uses to receive her personal mail.

The case was then turned over to the WCSO investigation team. Investigators made contact with the son on several occasions to verify the validity of the claims against his wife. Over the course of a few months, it was found that a total of six attempts to obtain credit cards were made in the victims’ names. Fortunately, all accounts were denied.

Several attempts were made to contact Heller by phone to no avail. The investigators then made a visit to her address where contact was made. Heller stated she, in fact, had helped her mother-in-law with attempting to “secure” her finances. When asked if she had applied for any loans without permission, she said no.  Heller stated she ran the credit but never applied for the credit cards.

Once the investigator mentioned the accounts to Heller, she then confirmed she probably did apply for those cards. She also confirmed the address showing on the credit report as her personal mailing address.

During a recorded conversation with Heller, she admitted she applied for some of the cards in her mother-in-law’s home, without her present or her permission, and the others at another residence. 

Heller was arrested at her residence in Panama City and booked into the Bay County Jail on multiple counts of fraud.