Man indicted in Leonard identity theft

By JEFF CARLTON
Associated Press

DALLAS — A 30-year-old Texas man has been indicted on identify theft charges for allegedly opening credit cards and a cell phone account in the name of pro golfer Justin Leonard, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Joel Keith Bridger, a convicted felon with a history of bail jumping, drug use and credit card fraud, was indicted by a Tarrant County grand jury last week on a charge of fraudulent use or possession of identifying information.

Bridger’s alleged scam last year unraveled only by happenstance, said David Lobingier, an assistant district attorney in the economic crimes unit.

He went to a post office to pick up mail in Leonard’s name and flashed his ID, which had Leonard’s information but Bridger’s photo, Lobingier said.

“The clerk said, ‘I know the Leonard family, and you’re not Justin Leonard,’” Lobingier said. “To use it where somebody knows you, that’s unusual.”

Leonard notified PGA security, which contacted the FBI, the prosecutor said.

Leonard, a Dallas native who still lives in the area, declined to comment through his agent, David Winkle.

“It doesn’t matter who you are ... or what sort of precautions you take,” Lobingier said. “You can still be a victim.”

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram first reported the story in its Thursday editions.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Bridger, said Terry Grisham, a spokesman for the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office. But Bridger won’t be arrested because he is already in state custody at a pre-parole transfer facility serving time on other charges.

Grisham said the sheriff would notify the state of the new charge.

Because he is in custody, Bridger is unreachable by telephone and state records do not indicate if he has an attorney, said Jason Clark, a spokesman with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. No initial court appearance has been set.

Bridger has been arrested at least four times, Clark said. His convictions were for possession of a controlled substance, bail jumping and failure to appear, fraudulent use of identification and credit card abuse.

“It wasn’t a terribly long time and the dollar amount wasn’t a tremendous amount,” Lobingier said. “But the potential is always there for a huge amount.”

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