Feds charge 2 Anchorage women in $150K identity-theft scheme

The front of a building with a line of street lights lead to a building. The sign above the entrance reads "Federal Building US Courthouse."
The James M. Fitzgerald U.S. Courthouse & Federal Building in downtown Anchorage. (Valerie Kern/Alaska Public Media)

Two Anchorage women are accused of stealing identities to siphon $100,000 from an elderly person, and to take money from a local branch of Habitat for Humanity and a North Slope village.

Valerie Calip and Jennifer Haydu face numerous charges including conspiracy, fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering, according to a statement Monday from the office of the U.S. Attorney for Alaska. 

Officials say that from roughly October 2021 until December of last year, Calip and Haydu stole victims’ checkbooks, identity documents and mail. They then used that information to create altered checks and drivers’ licenses, as well as false power-of-attorney documents.

Ultimately, those items were used to withdraw victims’ money from Wells Fargo bank branches, as well as Alaska USA and True North Federal Credit Union locations.

“Calip and Haydu stole more than 200 identity documents and thousands of dollars from victims, including over $100,000 from an elderly victim with dementia and thousands from a Habitat for Humanity bank account,” federal officials wrote in a statement.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigated the case, officials said, with “invaluable assistance” from the Anchorage Police Department.

Bryan Wilson, an executive assistant U.S. attorney, said Tuesday afternoon that the defendants’ choice of victims appeared to be opportunistic rather than targeted. He declined to discuss what led investigators to Calip and Haydu, as the case continues.

According to the indictment, written by federal prosecutors, Haydu withdrew $9,600 from Habitat for Humanity Anchorage’s Wells Fargo account last October. It says Haydu used a driver’s license with another person’s name, but fraudulently altered to bear her photo.

Peter Taylor, Habitat for Humanity Anchorage’s executive director, said Tuesday that the charitable group’s finances weren’t significantly affected by the missing funds.

“We picked up transactions in our account we couldn’t explain, and when looking at it from there, it simply appears to be a signer’s identity had been stolen,” he said.

Habitat for Humanity expects to recover the stolen money at the conclusion of the court case, but Taylor said the crime’s effects were far greater on the victim prosecutors say Haydu impersonated.

“The person whose identity was compromised and that affected Habitat for Humanity, they themselves suffered a – just a massive amount of inconvenience and frustration and time that goes with identity fraud,” Taylor said.

Calip also allegedly deposited a $12,000 check in January 2022, fraudulently drawn from an account maintained by the Village of Wainwright on the Chukchi Sea coast in the North Slope Borough. A call to village officials for comment wasn’t immediately returned Tuesday.

According to the statement, Calip and Haydu face maximum sentences of 30 years in prison for their most serious charges, with aggravated identity theft carrying a minimum two-year sentence.

Both women were listed in custody Tuesday at the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River.

Anyone who believes they were victimized by fraud in this case is asked to call the U.S. Attorney’s office at 907-271-3661. A nationwide hotline to report elder fraud is available at 833-FRAUD-11.

Chris Klint is a web producer and breaking news reporter at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at cklint@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Chris here.

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