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Pa. woman accused of stealing credit cards from patient

April 29, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Chambersburg woman charged with stealing packages from doorsteps last year was charged Tuesday by borough police with stealing and using credit cards stolen from a patient at Chambersburg Hospital.

Karen L. Beam, 48, of 815 S. Fifth St., has been charged with burglary, theft, forgery, receiving stolen property, three counts of access device fraud and 11 counts of attempted access device fraud, according to the affidavits of probable cause. The charges were filed in Magisterial District Judge Gary Carter's office.

Beam is in Franklin County Prison on $95,000 bail and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Tuesday, according to Carter's office.

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Police said they received a complaint April 21 of a wallet being stolen from the hospital room of a 79-year-old patient. The wallet contained two credit cards, a debit card, $52 and personal identification, police said.

Later that day, one credit card was used to purchase $591.43 in merchandise at Kmart on Wayne Ave., police said. Two women went to the checkout counter and the younger one signed for the merchandise, saying she was the daughter of the man and had permission to use the card, police said.

Store employees helped load the goods into the women's station wagon, police said.

The same day, one of the cards was used to get $340 from an ATM on Wayne Avenue, and the other was used to get $300 from another ATM on Wayne Avenue. There also were several unsuccessful attempts using an invalid personal identification number from various ATMs on April 21 and 22, police said.

Beam was picked out of a photo lineup by a Kmart employee on Monday, police said. Police searched her home Tuesday and found the goods and sales receipts from Kmart, police said.

Beam was not home at the time of the search, but she was stopped by police later that day and found in possession of one of the stolen cards, the affidavit stated.

According to the affidavit, Beam told police she entered several hospital rooms and stole the wallet while the patient slept. Detective Scott A. Mummert said Thursday that Beam was not an employee of the hospital.

"The incident did heighten the awareness of staff to be alert for any suspicious activity," hospital spokeswoman Sheran White said. Patients are advised to limit the number of valuables they bring to the hospital, or they can leave them in a hospital safe, she said.

The hospital, which has open visitation between noon and 8 p.m., is patrolled regularly by security officers, White said.

Police said the older woman seen with Beam in Kmart had been identified and was under investigation, but Mummert said no charges had yet been filed against that woman.

Beam was charged by Chambersburg and Pennsylvania State Police late last year with allegedly stealing dozens of packages left on doorsteps by FedEx, UPS, the U.S. Postal Service and other delivery companies in the weeks prior to Christmas.

Borough and state police charged Beam with 44 counts each of theft and receiving stolen property in the package thefts, according to court records.

Also charged in the package thefts were Beam's mother, Vonnie Stopyra, 65, of the same address, and Cindy Hykes, 32, of 402 Martina Drive.

All three women are scheduled to have their cases heard during the July trial term, according to the District Attorney's Office.

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