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Woman held in Va. is linked to group of cross-dressing thieves

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Anne Arundel County detectives said yesterday that they plan to extradite a 26-year-old woman now in custody in Virginia as the third suspect in a string of crimes blamed on a group of cross-dressing or transvestite thieves.

Two of the suspects were arrested in July on multiple charges of theft and credit card fraud, and police had obtained a warrant for the third, Latrenda Fleming, 26, of Washington, but had not made her identity public before her arrest several weeks ago by authorities in Fairfax County, Va.

Fleming, sister of one of the other suspects, is being held on theft warrants from Anne Arundel and Calvert counties and should be extradited to Anne Arundel by January or February, authorities said.

"This will close about half of our cases," said Western District Detective Tracy Morgan, who since July has been following a trail of credit card receipts and interviewing confused victims who often did not realize that their checks or credit cards were missing until hours or days later, and were uncertain of the gender of those who might have taken them.

Morgan and investigators from police agencies from Annapolis to Ocean City have been meeting regularly to compare notes on criminals who, they say, might be part of a larger network of cross-dressing thieves organized like sororities.

Instead of mob-style families, they are associated with "houses," investigators said.

"You've got the House of Khan, the House of Ebony, the House of Revlon," said federal agent, naming some of the organizations operating on the East Coast.

Not all members of those organizations - mostly men who dress as women - are believed to be involved in the credit card fraud. But authorities say the gang operating in Maryland is responsible for more than 50 credit card thefts.

In Anne Arundel, the thieves are believed to be responsible for thefts at nearly 30 small businesses this spring and summer, including four dry cleaners, a pet store and a florist. In Annapolis, at least five clerks have been victims, said city police Detective Pete Medley.

The victims are clerks who apparently were distracted while someone took wallets, credit cards and checkbooks from purses or money from a store cash drawer.

Stolen checks and credit cards were used to buy food, clothing, expensive jewelry and an oak dining room set, Morgan said. Authorities say more than three people may have been involved in the local cases, and they are still trying to identify possible suspects.

Charges of credit card fraud and theft were filed in July against Lamont Edward Fleming, 22, of Washington, who was first arrested by police in Calvert County.

The other suspect, Lamar Hammonds, 31, of Suitland, was arrested and charged after he was spotted at an Odenton drugstore by Anne Arundel police Lt. Jerard Flemings, who was off duty and recognized Hammonds from a surveillance video Morgan had shown him weeks earlier.

Latrenda Fleming, who was arrested this month, is Lamont's sister, Morgan said. It was unclear why police in Fairfax County initially stopped Fleming. Police agencies typically don't write reports when a suspect taken into custody is wanted on an arrest warrant.

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