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'He's a really good con man'

Posted: September 21, 2008 8:41 p.m.
Updated: November 23, 2008 5:00 a.m.
 

From 3,000 miles away, Jennifer is paying close attention to the identity theft trial of William Schaeffler.

The 32-year-old single mother fell for Schaeffler in high school and spent the last 10 years caught in a web of deceit, she said by phone from Maryland.

Schaeffler is scheduled for arraignment Sept. 23 in Santa Clarita Superior Court. He is charged with four felony counts, identity theft, commercial burglary, theft and grand theft all related to stealing the identity of his former girlfriend Belinda.

Both women's last names are being withheld for fear their identity could be stolen again.

Schaeffler allegedly changed addresses on Belinda's credit card accounts. Jennifer was told about Schaeffler's arrest and read Belinda's story in The Signal. "The story sounded just like mine," Jennifer said. She contacted the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station. Jennifer is waiting on more information from the credit reporting bureaus before she files charges. Jennifer isn't trying to get back child support payments or retribution on the father of her child, she said.
She just wants to protect herself from Schaeffler, he said.

Sheriff's Detective Doug Nale investigated Belinda's identity theft case and helped apprehend Schaeffler. "It looks like she might also be a victim," Nale said about Jennifer. Whether the charges will be filed in California depend on where Schaeffler committed the crime, he said. "He's a really good con man," Nale said.

An innocent start
Jennifer said she met Schaeffler in high school. At the time he seemed like a normal guy. "He is a good talker," she said.

The couple dated, got engaged in 1998 and had a daughter together in 1999. Around the time Jennifer got pregnant, Schaeffler's alleged scams began, she said.

Schaeffler owned a snowboard shop in Santa Clarita. He convinced Jennifer to purchase a new Honda Accord priced well beyond her means, she said. Schaeffler allegedly forged three pay stubs that showed Jennifer working at the store, she said. Once she purchased the car, Schaeffler took the car and gave Jennifer his old truck to drive.

"It was a piece of crap," she said.

Jennifer and Schaeffler were living together and expecting a baby when Schaeffler claimed his business partner ripped him off. Jennifer took out a personal loan to keep the business afloat, she said, and added Schaeffler never repaid her.

A drastic turn
Things got worse after Jennifer took a trip to Maryland to visit her mother. She left for Maryland suspicious Schaeffler was cheating. He was getting home each night just before sunrise, Jennifer said. She returned to California to find the locks on the couple's house changed, Jennifer said. A neighbor gave Jennifer the new key and news of Schaeffler's whereabouts.

"Almost everything was gone," Jennifer said. Schaeffler allegedly only left behind a few pieces of her clothes, Jennifer said. He moved the rest of the couple's belonging to his new girlfriend's house, Jennifer said. She drove by the house and confronted Schaeffler. He gave her a box of clothes and no explanation as to why he abandoned her and the apartment, Jennifer said. He wouldn't even give her back the car, Jennifer said.

"I had to threaten to report the car stolen before he gave it back," Jennifer said.

She was homeless, five months pregnant and without many of her belongings.

She moved in with her mother in Maryland and started piecing her life back together. She was $50,000 in debt. She claims $45,000 was due to the outstanding car loan and Schaeffler using credit cards Jennifer gave him access to. She filed for bankruptcy in 2000.

Jennifer said she began collecting child support from Schaeffler, but the payments were allegedly sporadic. So sporadic she didn't bother calling Schaeffler looking for money. He currently owes Jennifer more than $32,000 in back payments, she said. Schaeffler hasn't seen his daughter Hannah since the girl was 6 months old, Jennifer said. "My daughter doesn't know who her father is," Jennifer said.

Jennifer pushed Schaeffler and the nightmare scenario out of her mind until spring of 2008. She kept receiving notices that someone was making credit inquiries. "I didn't really pay attention to the notices," she said. Then she got a letter she couldn't ignore.

"I got a letter from a Nissan financing division that said I co-signed for a car," Jennifer said.

She has lived in Maryland since 2000 and the address on the car loan is Santa Rosa. It was shortly thereafter that she talked with Nale.

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