A Chandler woman incarcerated in a state prison now is accused of stealing $300 from a memorial fund set up for slain Chandler undercover detective Carlos Ledesma to pay her cell phone bill.
Stephanie Pringle, who also is known as Stephanie Smith, was arrested on suspicion of identity theft and attempted theft on Tuesday in connection with the theft of money from the Fallen Officers Memorial Fund for Ledesma, who died after he was shot during an undercover drug sting gone wrong at a south Phoenix residence in July.
Police say Pringle, 28, made an unauthorized electronic debit withdrawal for $302.73 in August from a branch of Well Fargo Bank and charge the amount back to T-Mobile, according to Chandler police. Police were later notified of the withdrawal. They then contacted Pringle in prison, who at first denied using the money from the memorial fund to pay her phone bill. However, in an earlier recorded telephone call with her boyfriend who was in jail on another matter, Pringle told him that she paid the bill on Aug. 10. Pringle had made the transaction from her home computer, police said.
In early November, Pringle was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for auto theft after violating her parole on another offense, according to police and prison records.
Chandler police advised anyone who sets up a fund such as a memorial account to set it up as a deposit-only account with very strict rules as to who can access it and when and how much money can be taken out.
“The banks can work with you on this,” said Sgt. Joe Favazzo, a Chandler police spokesman. “With all the memorial accounts out there, we encourage people to safeguard the account as much as possible.”
One way is to not make the account number public — just tell people to make donations to whichever bank the account is in and to the name of the account, Favazzo said.
It was not immediately known how Pringle targeted the Ledesma memorial fund, said Detective Frank Mendoza.