A Manhattan fashion executive was days away from dying of cancer when an identity thief withdrew thousands from her bank account, State Police and the woman's family said Wednesday in asking for the public's help to nab the suspect.
Cameras from Chase branches in Commack and Freeport show the woman who stole $9,200 from Kate Sullivan, 50, a marketing executive who had worked for fashion designers Kimora Lee Simmons and Diane von Furstenberg before her death on Sept. 28. The suspect also opened four store credit cards in Sullivan's name in New Haven, Connecticut, racking up $4,000 in bills, police said.
At the Freeport Chase on Sept. 24, the bank manager became suspicious of the woman's forged identification cards and questioned the suspect, who then ran away, said Charles Fontanelli, the State Police investigator on the case.
That day, Sullivan's family was at her hospital bedside when her phone rang and her younger sister, who picked it up, was asked by the bank manager if Kate Sullivan had just tried to withdraw money. "This was the last thing we really needed to deal with," Sarah Sullivan said. "We started panicking."
Sullivan said the identity thief had Kate's Social Security number and debit card password. The suspect also had a driver's license with a signature that matched the one Kate had neatly penned on her license, not her usual way of signing, Sullivan said.
Racing back to her sister's apartment, Sullivan said she alerted the doorman, changed the locks and froze the bank accounts.
Sullivan said she had to take care of her sister's apartment sale, health care bills and finances on top of caring for her own new baby and the identity theft investigation.
When she flew back home to Los Angeles, she opened her sister's mail and found credit cards in her sister's name, that had been opened in the two days before her death, which were all maxed out before her sister died.
She said her sister was a best friend to her, someone who devoted her life to her career and traveled worldwide even though she could barely walk because of tumors on her spine. She never smoked, but Kate Sullivan lived in the Financial District and her family thinks she may have gotten lung cancer due to the toxic air after the World Trade Center was destroyed by terrorists.
When State Police Wednesday posted photos of the suspected identity thief, Sullivan spread them around on social media.
"This has become my project," said Sullivan, a makeup artist for red-carpet stars. "I feel like I cannot . . . grieve because I have all this anger."
Anyone with information may call State Police at 631-756-3393.