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Broken heart, empty wallet

Posted: September 13, 2008 9:35 p.m.
Updated: November 15, 2008 5:00 a.m.

An identity theft victim in Canyon Country has her hands on the court records and complaints against her credit. She was taken for almost $300,000 by her ex-boyfriend over the past three years.

 

Belinda thought William Schaeffler was the man of her dreams. He had a good job and a promising future.

It wasn't long before Schaeffler broke her heart and her bank account.

Schaeffler, 33, is due in court Sept. 23 on four felony charges related to stealing Belinda's identity, according to a sheriff's deputy statement. Belinda did not give her last name for fear she might be victimized again.

Before Schaeffler allegedly stole Belinda's identity and spent $300,000 of her money, the pair met during a weekend trip Belinda made to Manhattan Beach during the summer of 2002. She was at the beach to visit her friend who was Schaeffler's roommate.

"He was funny and liked sports. He had a nice car and a job," she said.

A weekend turned into regular dating and then a relationship. Belinda was just over her a break up with her boyfriend when she met Schaeffler. Her previous relationship floundered because Belinda wanted to get married and start a family and her boyfriend didn't, Belinda says. Schaeffler filled Belinda's head with his own dreams of marriage, family and a home.

"I was blown away," she said.

Belinda didn't have any concerns until she got a phone call at work that should have been a red flag. Schaeffler called her asking for money to cover a child support payment to his ex-wife and child in Maryland, Belinda said.

"I didn't even know he had a kid," she says.

Schaeffler's child support payments were supposed to be garnished from his paycheck but weren't. He claimed he received a notice in the mail that stated his license would be suspended if he failed to pay, Belinda said. Thinking she was helping a friend, Belinda wrote a check for $4,000 to Schaeffler. She still hasn't been paid back, Belinda says.

"He kept telling me he would pay me next paycheck," Belinda says.

Convinced Schaeffler would pay her back and the new relationship was headed toward marriage, Belinda gave him access to several credit card accounts. When he bought gas with her Discover Card without telling her, she confronted him. Schaeffler had a list of excuses and Belinda bought them.

The relationship limped into late fall. During Thanksgiving 2002, the relationship got a boost that kept Belinda around long enough for Schaeffler to dig his claws into her, she says.

"I don't have much family," Belinda says. Schaeffler has a large family who all speak highly of him, Belinda says. "When you go from a small family to the Griswald family Christmas it's something you really want," she said.

Belinda was convinced that Schaeffler was worth her time and she was finally going to have the family she always wanted.

Schaeffler worked as a graphic designer in Los Angeles, but was growing restless at his job, Belinda said.

"He kept saying his boss was holding him back and he could do so much more," she says. Schaeffler talked about opening his own business. He quit his job in December 2002 and the problems between them got worse.

"The first thing I noticed was his car was gone," she said.

Schaeffler claimed it was a company car. He told Belinda to go with him to a Chevy dealership to buy a new car.

"He never said I was going to buy a car for him," she said.

Schaeffler's bad credit kept him from qualifying for a lease. He told Belinda that his father hadn't paid some medical bills and it dinged his credit because he had the same name. Schaeffler convinced Belinda to co-sign the lease on a 2003 Chevy Tahoe.

"He made the first payment, but didn't make the second one," she said.

Again she confronted Schaeffler and he had more excuses. Schaeffler claimed he sent the check, but for some reason the leasing company hadn't received it. Belinda told him to cancel the check he sent and paid the lease.
More financial ruin awaited Belinda in 2003. She sold her Santa Clarita Valley home and moved to Manhattan Beach with Schaeffler. In June 2003, still convinced Schaeffler could turn his life around, Belinda helped him open a graphic design business.

Schaeffler started getting work and depositing checks into the business' account, but when he paid Belinda her paycheck always bounced, she said.

"I was getting frustrated," she said.

Belinda realized Schaeffler wasn't the guy she was looking for. However, Belinda succumbed to pride. "I didn't want to walk away with nothing," she said.

Belinda was still mired in the relationship in 2004. She was making payments on the 2003 Infiniti G35 Schaeffler convinced her to lease because her car was unsafe and the company they owned needed to build its credit. Again Belinda wanted to believe Schaeffler could turn it around and he gave her reason to.

Schaeffler was a video editor and producer now. His new gig was believable. Hollywood producers were coming and going from their beach house and Schaeffler was always busy with projects.

He even shot a video for a rock star, she said.

Schaeffler claimed to have financial backing for a movie and promised Belinda she would get his cut of the $500,000 project, she said.

She never saw the money and has no idea if he did either.

Belinda and Schaeffler argued most of 2004 and in December she decided it was time to go.

"I called my brother and moved out," she says.

While Belinda was trying to put her life back together, Schaeffler had plans to use her Social Security number to continue ripping her off, Belinda says.

Schaeffler pretended to be Belinda's husband and opened credit card accounts and had the bills sent to his address.

She started getting calls from collections agencies in 2005.

Belinda hired an attorney and started fighting to get her money back.

She won a civil judgment against Schaeffler in 2005 for $300,000, but she hasn't received any money.

Santa Clarita sheriff's Detective Doug Nale was assigned to the case in 2005. He continued to pursue the investigation assured a crime was committed, a sheriff's statement said.

Schaeffler picked up his spending last July. A $4,000 spending spree in the Santa Clarita Valley alerted Nale and a warrant was issued for Schaeffler's arrest.

The Los Angeles Police Department answered a domestic call at a home where Schaeffler was. He was connected to the domestic dispute, but LAPD checked for warrants and arrested him, a sheriff's official said.

Belinda is trying to put her life back together, minus substantial assets.

"I went through my IRA and my 401K trying to keep afloat," she says.

Belinda lost more than money in the ordeal. She still feels embarrassed about what happened to her.

"I don't want people to think I am a big sucker but I feel like I got taken," she says.

If Schaeffler is convicted Belinda doubts she will receive any money, but she will have some solace.

"He will have to report to a probation officer and that makes him easier to track," she says.
Schaeffler is being held in lieu of $110,000 bail. He is due in Santa Clarita Superior Court Sept. 23.

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