Thief, freed to die, charged anew

The Baltimore Sun

A transgendered convicted thief who was released from prison last year to die of AIDS at home rather than in a prison hospital was charged yesterday with attempting to falsify a death certificate to avoid being prosecuted on new identity theft charges.

Dee Deirdre Farmer, 41, who also goes by the names of Douglas C. Farmer and Larry Gilbert Prescott, was accused of forging a Baltimore Circuit Court order to change the death certificate of a man named Charles Smith to reflect that Farmer was the person who had died.

The charges - filed by the Maryland attorney general's office - are the most recent in a series of crimes of which Farmer has been accused since being sent home in February 2005 by a judge who was sympathetic to the prisoner's failing health.

"When I cut him loose, my recollection is that it was on the basis of documentary evidence that he was HIV-positive and that his life expectancy was very, very short," said Joseph F. Murphy Jr., the chief judge of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, who heard the case last year because he had sentenced Farmer to 30 years in prison on theft charges in 1986 when Murphy was a member of the Baltimore County bench.

Murphy said he decided to release Farmer on probation "in the hopes that that might encourage him to remain crime-free while he was out with what little time he had left."

Born male, Farmer underwent a sex-change operation to become female and legally changed her Maryland birth certificate a few years ago to reflect that she was a woman named Dee Deirdre Farmer, according to court documents.

She was at the center of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1994 that held prisons to a greater degree of responsibility for protecting inmates from one another. The case was filed after Farmer, then a young prisoner with breast implants and male sex organs who was undergoing estrogen therapy, was raped at knifepoint in a maximum-security federal prison for men in Terre Haute, Ind.

The lawsuit claimed that prison officials had violated Farmer's constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment by ignoring the risks that an inmate who dressed like a woman and wore makeup would face in an all-male prison.

The high court's ruling that prison officials can sometimes be held liable for inmate assaults revived Farmer's lawsuit, which had been dismissed by lower courts. After the Supreme Court decision, however, she lost the case at trial.

Farmer was serving a 20-year federal sentence for credit-card fraud followed by the 30-year sentence imposed by Murphy.

Farmer had been convicted of credit card fraud in federal court and theft in Murphy's courtroom, and she was awaiting sentencing on both matters when she was caught participating in a telephone jewelry theft scheme from the city jail, Murphy said.

"I can count on one hand the number of defendants who were unable to behave themselves between the moment that they were convicted and the moment they were sentenced," Murphy said. "Somebody who can't control himself or herself during that period of time is a rare person, indeed."

Baltimore County prosecutor Steve Roscher, who handled some of the subsequent hearings in the county case, recalled that Farmer had telephoned Tiffany & Co. to order jewelry in the name of a county prosecutor who had worked on the case.

"He is just a con man. Incorrigible," Roscher said yesterday.

Although Farmer is legally considered a woman, she seems to go back and forth on how she chooses to portray herself. As such, attorneys and others involved in Farmer's criminal cases sometimes refer to her as a man and other times as a woman.

In December, Farmer was arrested in Nordstrom's in Towson for allegedly applying for and using store credit cards in other people's names. She identified herself as Larry Prescott - although later provided the name Dee Farmer - and has appeared in court on those charges dressed as a man, said Baltimore County prosecutor Michelle Samoryk, who added that the defendant did not appear to be ill.

Farmer, of the 3800 block of Elmley Ave. in Baltimore, was indicted by a federal grand jury in January, as Dee Deidre Farmer, on five counts of mail fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft for allegedly obtaining more than $50,000 in money and property by opening fraudulent credit accounts.

She was charged in December in Baltimore County, as Larry G. Prescott, 44, with identity theft, identity fraud and theft for allegedly opening fake Nordstrom credit card accounts.

She was charged yesterday in Baltimore with presenting false information for entry on a death certificate for the purpose of committing identity fraud and other offenses. Charging documents in that case indicate that Farmer succeeded in getting unrelated criminal charges in Virginia dismissed on the basis of her supposed death last year using a forged Maryland death certificate.

Defense attorney Nicholas A. Szokoly, who helped win Farmer's release last year from prison, expressed surprise and sadness at the new charges filed against his former client.

"I was hoping he would get some peace," the lawyer said. "I was looking forward to Dee being able to return home [last year] and have some quiet time with his family."


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