2008-10-23 / Local & State

College Beauty Sentenced To 5 Years

By MARYCLAIRE DALE ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A jetsetting college beauty who, teamed with her Ivy League boyfriend, swindled more than $100,000 from friends and neighbors through a complex identity theft scheme was sentenced Friday to five years in prison.

Jocelyn Kirsch, a former Drexel University student who attended high school in Winston-Salem, N.C., and University of Pennsylvania graduate Edward Anderton used the money for expensive salon visits, fancy dinners and lavish trips.

Federal guidelines called for a prison term of 70 months or more, but U.S. District Judge Eduardo C. Robreno credited Kirsch for her remorse and for her July 14 guilty plea to aggravated identity theft and other crimes. Besides prison, the judge also ordered full restitution to the 50 victims.

In court Friday, the defense painted Kirsch as a young woman desperate for a sense of identity after a dysfunctional childhood capped by her parents' bitter divorce and their near-abandonment the day she graduated high school.

"Neither her mother nor her father emerge as heroes in this case,'' Robreno said as the parents held their heads in their hands.

Kirsch, 23, and Anderton, 25, acknowledged stealing the identities of friends and neighbors in Philadelphia in 2006 and 2007 to glean more than $116,000 in goods and services. They broke into their neighbors' apartments to steal mailbox keys; bought a machine to make their own fake drivers' licenses; and sold nonexistent laptops and iPods on eBay.

Photos of the lovers enjoying ritzy escapades in Paris and Hawaii - released by police after their December arrest - quickly became tabloid and Internet fodder. A U.S. attorney called them "poster children'' for identity fraud.

"I cannot pinpoint precisely when we veered off course,'' Kirsch wrote in a four-page letter to the judge, in which she describes her recent prison stay as "the first period of real calm in ... a very long time.''

"One small thing led to a number of larger indiscretions and before I knew it we were doing more and more dangerous things; spending our money recklessly, drinking, lying, stealing,'' wrote Kirsch, who said little in court Friday.

The scheme unraveled late last year after an upscale salon told police that a check for Kirsch's $2,250 hair extension job had bounced. Police investigated and found dozens of identity-theft victims.

Kirsch now admits she acted out much earlier. She started shoplifting in middle school, stole her father's car at 14, was twice expelled from school for cheating, and, after starting college, had several minor shoplifting arrests, prosecutors said. There were few consequences.

"Jocelyn is a complex young woman who is sick and lost. And that is the hardest part of this whole thing for me to deal with - I didn't see or understand the depths of her despair,'' her mother, Jessica Eads, a nurse, wrote to the judge.

Eads moved to northern California, where she remarried, the week Kirsch graduated from high school in North Carolina.

Kirsch knew only the cell phone number and work address of her father - Winston-Salem, N.C., plastic surgeon Lee Kirsch. He performed a nose job and breast augmentation on his daughter but otherwise had little contact with her after the parents split in 2001, according to family letters submitted to the court.

Still, the judge noted, Kirsch had her share of advantages: intelligence, good looks and parents who were successful professionals.

Anderton's sentencing is set for Nov. 14. The Everett, Wash., resident pleaded guilty to the same six felonies as Kirsch, a list that includes money laundering and mail fraud. But he could get less time because of his clean record since his arrest.

Kirsch lost some credit because she stole the identify of a Starbucks co-worker in California - and rode off with a $2,000 bicycle after a store let her take it for a spin - even after her arrest.

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