MIAMI (CBS4) – A prominent Holocaust survivor told CBS4 that he is horrified that a 23-year-old Northwest Miami-Dade woman is accused by federal authorities of trying to sell the identity information of 32 holocaust survivors.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami says Crystal Thorne,23, was arrested Saturday after she met an undercover Police informant in a North Miami Beach parking lot of a K-Mart store and after she handed over sheets of information on the holocaust survivors for $1,000.
Thorne had worked as a coordinator at Jewish Community Services of South Florida in North Miami for the past three years. Federal prosecutors said that Thorne’s job gave her direct access to the personal information of clients who regularly ask for help from the Holocaust Survivors Assistance Program of JCS; and that information included names, addresses, dates of birth and Social Security numbers.
Thorne was told by the undercover police informant that he wanted to use the identity information for a tax refund scam. The informant turned over the cash to Thorne after receiving 32 sheets of identity information from JCS.
“I was in shock when I heard the news,” said David Mermelstein of Kendall, a prominent 82-year-old Holocaust survivor who is on an advisory council of JCS and is a co-founder of Miami-Dade Holocaust Survivors, Inc.
“How can anyone with a heart do anything like this,” Mermelstein told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench.
Mermelstein grew up in the Carpathian Mountains area of the Czech Republic. In April of 1944, he was sent to Auschwitz and spent 13 months at Auschwitz and two other concentration camps including Gross Rosen and Ebensee before being released in May 1945 after the end of World War II.
He lost four brothers, a sister and his parents in the Holocaust.
“They’re taking away your identity,” said Mermelstein about this latest case. “They took away our names in Auschwitz, but here now, when something like this happens, it hurts. It’s criminal. It’s criminal to sell the information that she got confidentially. She knew that it’s confidential. Here she was. She was hired and promoted and then this happened. It’s very hurtful. It’s something like, we can’t take it.”
“JCS helps holocaust needy survivors,” said Mermelstein, “because the average age of holocaust survivors is 87. It’s just inconceivable that something like this would happen.”
Fred Stock, the President and CEO of Jewish community Services, declined to give an on-camera interview, but he told D’Oench he was “very upset” about this case.
And in a statement from Stock that was released by the Wragg & Casas Public Relations firm, Stock said in a statement that he was “shocked” to learn about the arrest.
He said JCS has suspended Thorne without pay, pending the police probe. He says she was checked out thoroughly before being hired. Stock said she had passed the required State of Florida Level 2 background checks necessary for employment.
Stock said JCS is cooperating fully with the United States Attorney’s office and local police and has begun notifying “potentially affected clients and family members of this possible breach. JCS will work with them to put measures in place to further protect their personal information through credit monitoring.”
“JCS places a supreme value on its integrity and professionalism as a social-service organization, caring for its clients and ensuring their privacy,” the statement said. “As such JCS’s main concern now is the well-being and security of those who may be at risk.”
Stock said JCS helps more than 30,000 people every year.
“The leadership of JCS is deeply concerned about this violation against its clients and the agency will continue to work to resolve this matter expeditiously,” said Stock.
Crystal Thorne remains in federal custody after making her first appearance Monday in a federal courtroom.
Thorne said she gave the personal identity information to the undercover police informant “in hopes of getting a couple of dollars.”