Bernanke: I was identity theft victim

Fed chairman was one of 500 tagged in alleged bank fraud scheme that led to federal indictment of 22 people.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, the man in charge of the nation's money supply, discovered last summer that even he is not immune to the risk of identity theft.

A thief stole his wife's handbag, taking with it a family checkbook, credit cards and her identification, according to a police report and court documents.

Investigators say they eventually tied the case to a wider scheme of bank fraud that has led to a federal indictment against 22 people. Among them is the suspect in the Bernanke theft, who authorities believe is the man seen in a bank surveillance video trying to use one of the stolen checks to get money from the Bernanke account.

The Federal Reserve Board chairman and his wife, Anna, had to take steps against identity theft after the August 2008 loss, according to Newsweek magazine, which first reported the story Tuesday on its Web page.

Bernanke, through a spokesman at the Federal Reserve, acknowledged the theft and said in a statement provided Thursday to CNN: "Our family was but one of 500 separate instances traced to one crime ring."

The purse was taken in the customer area of a Starbucks coffee shop at Washington's famous Eastern Market.

Metropolitan Police Department records show Anna Bernanke was carrying four credit cards, her driver's license, the checkbook, and a small amount of cash in the handbag. The police officer who took the theft report quoted her as saying the purse was stolen from the back of her chair, and she did not see the theft take place.

According to a criminal complaint filed in October with District of Columbia Superior Court, the suspect, George L. Reid, 41, was involved in a scheme to pass fraudulent checks against multiple bank accounts, including Bernanke's.

With the federal indictments against Reid and the 21 others, the case has moved to U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The suspects are charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

The scheme was said to involve "pickpocket theft, mail theft, theft from businesses, and corrupt employees" who helped the accused obtain bank account information, according to an affidavit filed in support of the charges and arrest warrants.

The U.S. attorney's office in Alexandria did not immediately return phone calls seeking information on whether Reid is now in custody.

The statement from the Federal Reserve Board chairman noted that "identity theft is a serious crime that affects millions of Americans each year."

He added, "I am grateful for the law enforcement officers who patiently and diligently work to solve and prevent these financial crimes." To top of page

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