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Woman pleads not guilty to ID theft

An Austin woman accused of identity theft for allegedly using another woman’s identity to open several bank accounts and purchase a vehicle pleaded not guilty Thursday in Mower County court.

Josephine Abigail Saye, 25, is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing June 25, at which point she can maintain her not-guilty plea and go forward with a trial or amend her plea as part of a deal.

According to a criminal complaint, the incident was first brought to the attention of the Austin Police Department in November. The alleged victim, 25, said Saye had used her identity to buy a 2002 Ford Explorer for roughly $6,000. In addition, the woman claimed that Saye had created a bank account in her name to pay for the vehicle.

The alleged victim told authorities that she had given Saye her Minnesota ID on one occasion to open a utilities account. That was in October 2009, and the woman said her card was never returned afterward.

The woman also told authorities that she had been notified by representatives of Sterling State Bank that a bad check for $2,000 had been written in her name. The alleged victim claimed she only had accounts with Wells Fargo and the Mayo Credit Union.

A detective spoke with a representative from Sterling State Bank, who was able to confirm that Saye had opened an account in the alleged victim’s name in October, using the woman’s ID card. An Accentra Credit Union representative also confirmed that Saye had been making transactions using the woman’s identity, the complaint states. In each case, the identification was made using photos provided by police of both the alleged victim and Saye.

When authorities spoke with Saye, she said she had received permission for opening those accounts and others, as well as permission to buy the vehicle, from the alleged victim. Saye said she had opened the Accentra account and used it to set up a loan on the Ford. She said she didn’t use her own name at the dealership because she has bad credit and really needed a vehicle, the complaint states.

However, the alleged victim told authorities that she had not given Saye permission to open any accounts, and said Saye had also stolen a check of hers and used it to make a downpayment on the vehicle.

Records also indicate that Saye attempted to write checks in her own name and cash them into the fraudulent accounts set up in the alleged victim’s name. The checks, which totaled more than $4,000, all bounced and caused negative balances in the alleged victim’s name, the complaint states.