South Valley woman gets 12 years for stealing dozens of identities through documents taken from trash, mailboxes

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Driver's licenses, debit cards, and even birth certificates were all in 27-year-old Jessica Murphy's possession when Visalia Police arrested her last November.

Tuesday, a Tulare County judge sentenced her to 12 years in prison for stealing the identities of 84 victims, stealing another person's mail, and possessing and selling drugs.

Prosecutors say Murphy described herself as a profiler to police, gathering up and then selling personal identifying information to support her drug problem.

Of the many victims, it's unclear to what extent their information was used and how much money they lost.

But Assistant District Attorney David Alavezos says it was more than just Murphy involved in the criminal operation.

"They weren't stealing large sums," Alavezos said. "Small sums sometimes people do not recognize...so it's always a good idea to keep track of where money is going out of your accounts."

And it's even better to protect yourself on the front end, prosecutors say, by making sure you properly dispose of any document that has private information on it.

In this case, all of the personal information was obtained from hard paper copies, from unlocked mailboxes and trash cans.

"A small personal shredder is very inexpensive," said Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward. "And trust me as the victims in this case and the hundreds of cases that we see every year, if one of those victims were here, they would say that the investment in a small shredder is by far way better than what these families are enduring."

In this digital age, it's important to protect your online identity, but prosecutors say it's equally as important to not leave a paper trail for thieves.
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