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Girlfriend runs up credit card bill

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 1:11 a.m.

A Brownsville woman was accused Tuesday of racking up nearly $10,000 in credit card charges in her boyfriend's name.

Monessen police said Brenda Lee Wright, 56, used a Fifth Third Bank credit card issued to Paul Shanefelt of Monessen for 53 transactions totaling $9,727 from Feb. 28 through April 8.

The two had been living together at Shanefelt's Dennis Avenue residence, police said.

Officer Dave Yuhasz said the investigation began June 28 when Shanefelt reported he was a victim of identify theft.

He told police his Fifth Third Bank MasterCard account had a balance of $10,713.55.

Shanefelt told police he had no knowledge of having any card from that bank until he received a late-charge statement.

Fifth Third Bank faxed Yuhasz receipts from five purchases made at various stores with someone else using Shanefelt's signature – along with an online transaction with catalog company, Fingerhut. Wright also allegedly used the credit card for cash withdrawals.

Police said the Fingerhut order was shipped to Shanefelt's residence, and included a crock pot, a slow cooker, Paris Hilton perfume and a Steelers hoodie. Police said that on Dec. 12, the name on the Fingerhut account was changed from Shanefelt to Wright.

Yuhasz said that on Oct. 7, he received confirmation from Fifth Third Bank that a card issued to Shanefelt was used 53 times for purchases and cash withdraws earlier this year.

During an interview with police later that day, Wright allegedly confessed that she applied for the credit card in Shanefelt's name so he could consolidate other credit accounts to save money.

Police said Wright claimed she made cash withdrawals for household repairs to the furnace, dryer and refrigerator. Wight said that at the time, she was unemployed and Shanefelt was laid off from his job.

In an Oct. 16 interview, Shanefelt told police that during the time of the alleged transactions, he was taking truck-driving classes and that Wright had been fired from her job for calling in sick.

Shanefelt said he used a Discover credit card to purchase a refrigerator and pay for furnace repairs, and wrote a check for dryer repairs. When asked if he received any money from Wright for those payments, he said “No,” according to police.

Police said Shanefelt denied being present with Wright when she applied for the Fifth Third Bank card, adding the only credit card he ever applied for was the Discover card.

Wright was charged with five counts of fraud, 53 counts of access device fraud issued to another who did not authorize use, and one count of theft by unlawful taking.

Her preliminary hearing is scheduled 10 a.m. Dec. 20 before Magisterial District Judge Joseph Dalfonso in Monessen.

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbruni@tribweb.com or 724-684-2635.

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