Noah Cohen and Stephanie Takach chronicle a Drexel University coed and her preppy boy toy who lived the high life via cyberfraud.
The jet-setting (and allegedly illicit) odyssey of Jocelyn Kirsch, 22, a senior at Philadelphia’s Drexel University, and her boyfriend Edward Anderton, 25, is now history. On December 5, 2007, the cohabitants of a high-end condo were arrested on charges of conspiracy, forgery and identity theft after a neighbor informed authorities that the duo had opened a credit card account under her name just three weeks after moving in.
An investigation soon discovered that the suspected con artists had netted more than $100,000 while indulging themselves with fancy clothes, the latest technological gadgets and luxury getaways. Photos recovered from their condo showed the couple smiling and relaxing in Paris, the Caribbean and other exotic locales.
Friends said Kirsch—the daughter of a Winston-Salem, North Carolina, plastic surgeon—was no stranger to accusations of thievery. Suspicions of dishonesty date as far back as 2002, when Kirsch was a counselor at Camp Cheerio, a children’s summer camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains. “Honestly, when I heard about it, I wasn’t shocked at all,” former camper Megan Rahn declared. “We had a couple of incidents of stealing at our cabin.” According to a bunkmate, Kirsch snatched some food, a pair of rainbow flip-flops and a fellow counselor’s cell phone.
Said another, anonymous Camp Cheerio alum, “Stuff started to disappear. Then Jocelyn got fired.”
Former college friends insist that Kirsch’s deceit went far beyond petty theft, and the police investigation bore this out. At Kirsch and Anderton’s residence, investigators reportedly seized four computers, a scanner, two printers, keys to neighbors’ mailboxes, dozens of credit cards and an industrial-size machine for manufacturing IDs. Billing statements for one neighbor and the passport of yet another were also uncovered, as well as a closetful of designer clothes, three safe lock boxes, around $18,000 in cash, a tome titled The Art of Cheating: A Nasty Little Book for Tricky Little Schemers and Their Hapless Victims and a newspaper article with the headline “How to Spot Fake IDs.”
Neighbors might not have been the only ones being scammed. A source close to the investigation believes that Anderton—a University of Pennsylvania grad and onetime financial analyst originally from Everett, Washington—was also being fooled by the seductive Kirsch. “I always wonder why she stayed with him,” the source said. “She could wrap any person around her finger.”
Former friends recalled that Kirsch—a former sorority sister—would flirt with gal pals’ guys and developed relationships while dating Anderton. Despite her flirtatious nature—according to both the police and friends of the couple—Kirsch was allegedly able to convince Anderton not only to take a final exam for her at Drexel, but also to eventually become her alleged accomplice in the elaborate identity theft scam.
Meanwhile, Drexel University administrators have issues of their own to deal with. Kirsch, an international area studies major, allegedly pretended to be an adjunct professor in order to get a free parking pass, and—according to a staffer—she allegedly made use of computers at the school’s Language and Communication Center. “That wounded my pride,” the staffer said, “because I thought I had a pretty good BS detector.”
Kirsch—whose provocative attire, remarkable figure (reputedly enhanced) and long, dark hair inevitably turned heads—got in more hot water when she strode into Giovanni and Pileggi, an upscale Philly hair salon, to be fitted with a set of auburn-brown extensions. The coed paid with a $1,700 check, and when it later bounced, a salon employee tried to contact her by phone, then with a text message.
Kirsch allegedly replied by text: “Hello. You don’t know my name, but I know yours. I also know your nice place…and how you get home at night. You’re the one who should be worried.”
“The hairdresser made a police report after the incident,” a police source said. “Kirsch was charged with terroristic threats, along with other charges when she was locked up.”
Kirsch’s high school boyfriend said that she was always trying to be someone she was not. “Jocelyn was always sucking the life out of every person she met,” he recalled. “When one group of friends or individuals would find out who she really was, she would sneak away and immediately get another group of friends.” He also remembered that when Kirsch worked as a lifeguard at a water park, she feigned a South African accent to dupe friends into thinking she was foreign.
Kate Agnelli, Kirsch’s best friend in high school, confirmed the ex’s story: “She felt the need to lie, and I think that is Jocelyn Kirsch. She is not comfortable with the truth or who she is.”
After being released on bail in excess of $100,000 each, Kirsch is reportedly staying with her father, while Anderton returned to Washington State. The defendants, dubbed “the Bonnie and Clyde of Identity Theft” by police, were briefly reunited in a Philadelphia courtroom on February 12.
Noah Cohen, a senior studying communications and criminal justice at Drexel University, is editor in chief of the campus newspaper The Triangle. Majoring in communications, freshman Stephanie Takach is The Triangle’s assistant news editor and a contributor to the New York Post and CBS Online.
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