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Fayette County woman posed as rodeo star to get cellphones and saddles

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Thursday, March 7, 2013, 12:30 p.m.
 

A Fayette County woman posed as a rodeo star to meet men and scam 700 cellphones out of Sprint.

Susan Rowan, 39, of Vanderbilt pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court, Downtown, to five counts of mail fraud in connection with stealing the identity of professional barrel racer Sherry Cervi of Marana, Ariz. She used the scam to get two handmade saddles from an Adams County saddle maker.

Rowan and her attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Linda Cohn, declined comment after the hearing. There was no answer at the number listed for Cervi.

Rowan opened a corporate account with Sprint by posing as Cervi, Cervi's relatives and business associates in a fictional company called “Hanson Industries,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney James Kitchen. She used email exchanges to convince a San Antonio representative of Sprint Communications that the business was legitimate, he said.

Between July 2008 and February 2010, Rowan placed bulk orders for cellphones and had hundreds shipped to various addresses. She picked up most of the shipments herself and handed out phones to relatives claiming that they were free to use on a trial basis.

Rowan returned 170 phones to Sprint.

“She burned the rest in a field next to her parents' house,” Kitchen said.

Rowan used the same email account to conduct online relationships with three men who flew into Western Pennsylvania thinking they were going to meet Cervi, he said.

In all, the estimated loss to Sprint was $432,000. The Adams County saddle maker, identified only as J.R.W. in court documents, lost $8,000 in making two saddles that he thought were going to Cervi, Kitchen said.

Although Rowan admits to committing the crime, she disputes the amount of loss to Sprint, Kitchen said.

U.S. District Judge David Cercone scheduled sentencing for July 2. Rowan remains free on a $10,000 bond.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

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