Criminal Justice

Judge investigated personal ID theft case, pointing police to suspect who got 13 years

As an Oregon judge, Christopher Marshall had presided over many an identity theft case. So when the Multnomah County circuit court jurist himself was victimized in a health club gym locker break-in, he quickly developed a game plan.

In addition to canceling his credit card accounts, he found out where the thief had used them. Then he spoke to employees at the stores involved and persuaded one to set aside surveillance video before it was routinely recorded over, the Oregonian reports.

The judge handed over all of the information he’d gathered to a Portland police officer, who collected the surveillance video and got an important lead when she visited another retailer. A store clerk didn’t remember the name of the suspect who had used the judge’s card, but did recall a man using someone else’s card the previous day had become angry when asked for ID. The officer, Barbara Glass, urged the clerk to call 911 if the man ever returned.

When that did, in fact, happen, store employees not only called authorities but got a license plate number as he fled. A search of the suspect’s home, after police got a warrant, revealed belongings of 10 other victims of health-club thefts, plus identification and credit cards for dozens of other individuals. Thomas Joseph Berndt II was also found, hiding in the attic, the newspaper recounts.

In a March jury trial, Berndt was convicted on 94 counts including charges of burglary, identity theft and unauthorized use of a vehicle. On Friday, the 40-year-old apologized and was sentenced to over 13 years in prison. His lawyer says he has a drug problem.

The judge spoke at his sentencing, explaining to Berndt that he wanted him to understand that his crimes hurt people, not just financial institutions.

“I wanted to be here today so you can see at least one face of a person who says these are definitely person crimes,” he told the defendant.

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