BENNINGTON >> A 24-year-old woman is facing a felony charge of identity theft for allegedly stealing another woman's food stamps benefit card.
Billie-Jean Reynolds, of Union Street, Bennington, pleaded not guilty in Vermont Superior Court Monday to a felonious charge of identity theft, and single misdemeanor counts of false pretenses and welfare benefits fraud. The identity theft charge carries penalties of not more than three years in jail, a fine not more than $5,000, or both.
According to an affidavit filed by Officer Keith R. Diotte of the Bennington Police Department, he spoke with a 22-year-old woman on Sept. 28 who stated her electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card went missing around Sept. 1. She said she reported the card stolen and received a new one on Sept. 4.
The woman told Diotte that when she called EBT services to activate her new card, she was told $200 in cash had been withdrawn from her account. The card was used on Sept. 1 just after 7 a.m. at the Citizens Bank ATM on Main Street. A second transaction of $100 was attempted, but not authorized due to insufficient funds, according to the affidavit.
In a written statement to police on Dec. 5, the woman who initially reported the fraud wrote she did not give anyone permission to use her EBT card.
As the result of a subpoena Diotte obtained through the Bennington County State Attorney's Office, Citizens Bank provided photos of video footage from inside the ATM that were taken at the time the transaction reportedly took place. While reviewing the photos, Diotte observed a female using the ATM whom he recognized as Reynolds, according to the affidavit.
On Dec. 11, Diotte learned that Reynolds was living on Union Street. He wrote he attempted to contact her numerous times and did not get an answer. Later that day, Reynolds contacted the police department and was "irate" that an officer was looking for her, the affidavit states.
Diotte wrote he spoke with Reynolds that day and asked her if she used the woman's EBT card. Reynolds allegedly said that she did use the EBT card and had the woman's permission. She allegedly said she used the card to get food and money for that woman's child and that the woman was mad at her because the woman and Reynold's cousin had broken up, according the affidavit.
Diotte then arrested Reynolds, who was released with conditions including that she not have contact with, abuse or harass the woman who reported the alleged fraud.
The affidavit notes that Reynolds has a criminal history in the state which includes nine failures to appear in court and was convicted of petit larceny on April 7.
Reynolds had applied for public defender services, according to court documents, and is expected to appear again in court on Jan. 6 for a status conference.
Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979