A federal judge yesterday clipped the wings of the once-jet-setting Jocelyn S. Kirsch, ordering her under house arrest in Philadelphia after federal prosecutors sought to have her detained for committing new crimes.
Kirsch, 22, who captivated an international audience as photos of her circulated the Internet after her arrest in an alleged identity-theft scheme, appeared solemn as U.S. District Judge Eduardo C. Robreno contemplated whether to send her to jail.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis D. Lappen said that Kirsch was essentially "begging" to be detained by engaging in new crimes - stealing a coworker's credit card and using it at a California drugstore and an Ikea, and stealing a bicycle by asking to take it for a test ride and never returning it. She even lifted a candle from a store.
"She's just too much of a risk of flight to remain on the loose," said Lappen.
While Robreno agreed that Kirsch posed such a risk, he said he believed that more severe restrictions would ensure that she would show up for future court proceedings.
In addition to placing her under house arrest in Philadelphia, Robreno increased her bond from $50,000 to $100,000, continued her on an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet, and ordered her to be in the custody of her parents or grandmother at all times. Kirsch, who until this week had been staying with her mother in California, was ordered to relocate to Philadelphia for her house arrest.
She also was ordered to stay off the Internet and the phone, and not to engage in any banking or credit transactions, or have more than $50 in cash on hand. And Robreno ordered her parents to co-sign the $100,000 bond before they left the courtroom.
The former Drexel University student is accused, along with her onetime boyfriend, Edward K. Anderton, 25, of a year of dangerous living - stealing credit cards and identification from friends, coworkers and strangers in a bar and then using the fake ID to live large.
The two have been dubbed the Bonnie and Clyde of identity theft.
In court yesterday, Kirsch looked more studious than stunning. Rather than the sometimes-violet-eyed beauty splashed across the Web, Kirsch was more plain-Jane.
She wore glasses instead of contacts and little or no makeup, had her long dark hair pulled back in a ponytail, and was dressed simply in khakis, pink shirt and white jacket.
And when she spoke, her voice was so soft that she could barely be heard.
When Robreno asked her if she understood the new conditions of remaining free - and that she would be immediately detained if she violated any of those conditions - Kirsch quietly replied: "Yes, sir."
Robreno also asked whether she was on medication, and Kirsch said that she was taking medication and undergoing treatment for mental-health problems.
Kirsch had been scheduled to plead guilty yesterday, but her defense attorney, Ronald Greenblatt, said that the new misconduct in California had complicated the legal issues in the case.Greenblatt said he believed she ultimately would plead guilty "in a few weeks" after he and Lappen worked out the remaining details.
"Clearly, she's got some mental-health problems," he told Robreno.
Lappen said that the new misconduct, which took place in March and April, had increased the possible prison sentence she faces - and Robreno said that "a jail sentence is very likely in this case." Kirsch now faces about six or seven years under federal sentencing guidelines, Lappen said.
On Monday, Anderton pleaded guilty to six charges of conspiracy, aggravated identity theft, access-device fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering.
He remains free on bail pending sentencing, now set for Aug. 29. Lappen said Anderton faced five years or more in prison.
Lappen said Kirsch and Anderton scammed their victims out of more than $116,000 and went on a wild spending spree, buying furniture, electronics and jewelry and traveling to Paris, the Caribbean and Hawaii.
After their arrests, police offered a glimpse of their fraud-financed travels: photos of the smiling couple horseback riding in the Caribbean surf, lounging on boat decks, and dining at fancy restaurants.
Police also seized dozens of fraudulent drivers' licenses and credit cards in various names, along with at least 40 keys to doors and mailboxes at the Belgravia, the Center City condo building where they had lived since last summer.
Greenblatt said after court that he understood the public's fascination with the case. But Greenblatt called her a young woman "who is clearly mentally ill, whose future is shattered."
"It's her own doing," he said, "and she's going to pay a heavy price."
To listen to yesterday's court hearing, go to http://go.philly.com/kirsch