By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer
When Warren County deputies nabbed two runaway girls suspected of passing a stolen check at a Symmes Township Kohl's store last week, they had what they thought was a routine case.
But those arrests have instead enmeshed the Cincinnati suburb in the nationwide hunt for a woman police describe as a career con artist who has used runaway children - and even her own - to steal more than half a million dollars. Two members of her traveling clan of bandits, police say, could be linked to the beating death of a 93-year-old West Virginia man.
At the center of it all is Lottie Mae Stanley, 50, a mother of 12 children whose arrest record dates to 1969 and who is now wanted on warrants in 10 states. Stanley, police say, has a penchant for disguises and a love for gambling boats so strong that it keeps her coming back to the Tristate.
With 27 assumed names, some of them her own children's, police say the smooth-talking thief is so adept at faking her identity to steal money that a nationwide network of detectives and federal agents has been unable to find her for nearly six years.
For four months, police say, Stanley lived undetected in the Tristate, renting three apartments in Deerfield Township with her husband, Aaron Telke, other relatives, and the runaway girls. An adult daughter was about two miles away in an apartment in Symmes Township.
Stanley also had four of her children in tow - among them two sons, 5 and 8, and a 13-year-old daughter, who police said sometimes accompanied her mother on bank jobs. Investigators said the girl had rolled wads of money - thousands of dollars - in her pockets when federal and local police descended on their home in a raid last week.
Police say the theft ring cast so wide a net across Hamilton, Warren, Dearborn and Boone counties that detectives still don't know the extent of the thefts. In Hamilton County alone, there are six cases in Symmes, Colerain and Green townships and the city of Harrison since mid-October.
Stanley remains on the run. But police hope developments in the case this week have increased their chances of reeling her in.
Her four children are hidden away in a federally-protected location. Her husband is answering questions from police.
Federal marshals captured three of her alleged accomplices, Huey Williams, 27, Belcher Grady, 18, and Pamela S. Williams, 49, at a motel room at the Knight's Inn in Florence Wednesday night. Police said the motel room was filled with stolen merchandise.
The three apparently have lived at the Kentucky motel since fleeing Deerfield Township last week.
Police have identified both men as cousins or nephews of Stanley. Grady is wanted for questioning for the West Virginia homicide, which occurred on Jan. 5. He and Huey Williams have outstanding arrest warrants in six states. The trio now faces charges in Boone County of receiving stolen property.
"I almost didn't go to sleep that night because we are so close," W.K. Newell, a Terrell, Texas, detective who has been tracking Stanley, said of the latest developments.
Warrants from all over
When the runaways arrested Jan. 29 started talking, deputies ran Stanley's name through the national crime computer.
"We found warrants all over the country. Ten states came out on the rap sheet, including the federal charges," said Lt. Jerry Mays, who heads the Warren County sheriff's detective squad. The states looking for Stanley: Ohio, Texas, Minnesota, Maryland, Louisiana, Indiana, Mississippi, Kansas, Florida, Missouri.
Deputies made calls through the night. One of them reached an FBI office in West Virginia, where a deputy learned that one of the runaways, a 17-year-old from Martinsburg, W.Va., identified as Belcher Grady's girlfriend, also was wanted for questioning about the murder of an elderly Martinsburg man.
"We can't say that they were actually involved in it," said First Sgt. Deke Walker, of the West Virginia State Police. "But we wanted to talk to them, to get information from them."
The runaways, including a 16-year-old girl from Lexington, N.C., were charged locally in connection with the thefts of purses and checks from customers and employees at several Deerfield Township businesses. They also were charged with theft for passing a stolen check at Kohl's on Fields Ertel Road last week. Both have since returned home to their families.
The youngest has promised to return to face the charges here. The 17-year-old pleaded guilty, being placed on probation with the promise to be questioned by West Virginia authorities about the homicide, Warren County Prosecutor Tim Oliver said.
A compulsive gambler
Authorities doubt they have uncovered the full scope of Stanley's crimes.
"We're talking about somebody who is so prolific at what she does, that she is wanted in 10 states and by the federal government," said Agent James Turgal, spokesman for the Cincinnati FBI office. "I think it's safe to say we've barely scratched the surface."
Stanley has been immersed in a life of crime since at least 1969, when she went to prison in North Carolina, said Detective Vince Chalecki, of Sugarcreek Township Police in suburban Dayton, Ohio. In 2001, his detective work solved a national mystery and put a name to an unknown face on bank surveillance cameras across the country.
Chalecki said Stanley's arrest record since 1987 includes charges of forgery, theft by deception and passing bad checks in North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and her native Pennsylvania. In Dearborn and Hamilton counties, she has been at work off and on since 1997, striking typically at grocery store bank marts during busy hours, and clearing out her victims' accounts using stolen or counterfeit checks.
"She is one of the smoothest talkers you will ever run into," Chalecki said of the way Stanley operates. He said she uses small talk, acts forgetful, and employs her 13-year-old daughter to gain trust and further confuse young bank tellers into releasing account information.
Investigators say that Stanley has used computer-generated counterfeit checks in some cases, and has even gone through garbage cans and taped together a victim's ripped up bank deposit slip to identify his account number.
Chalecki began investigating Stanley in September 2001, when she allegedly passed a stolen check from St. Louis at a grocery store bank mart just yards from the police station on Clyo Road. At the time, Stanley, who was caught on surveillance camera, used a fake ID in the name of her own daughter, Patty Jo Grady.
Chalecki said he tracked the daughter to Winchester, Va., where police used a warrant to search Patty Jo Grady's house.
"They didn't find Stanley, but Patty was there. They found a family picture, and there was my suspect. They asked who was in that photo, and (Grady) said, `That's my mom.' It just snowballed," Chalecki said.
He has accumulated boxes of information to keep track of Stanley's activities and her brazen returns to areas including Shreveport, La., Lawrenceburg and Hamilton County, that are close to casinos.
"After she gets that money, she goes immediately to the nearest casino. She is a compulsive gambler. In my case, she went to Grand Victoria, Argosy and Belterra," Chalecki said.
Telke told authorities he was supposed to meet up with Stanley at casinos in Indiana if he got away, Chalecki said.
Telke was charged with harboring his wife as a fugitive, but was released Wednesday after U.S. attorneys decided they did not have enough evidence.
Telke has not attempted to recover the four children found in Stanley's apartment during last week's raid, officials at Warren County Children's Services said. Telke told detectives that only one of the children is his; the rest are his wife's by other men.
Mike Horton of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office said a search of Stanley's daughter's apartment at Wellington Place in Symmes Township indicated the family also was involved in paving scams in the area. The dump truck used in the paving business was left at Steeplechase apartments in Symmes when the group fled, he said. The woman abandoned the apartment after authorities raided her mother's Deerfield Township apartment, according to police.
Hamilton County's cases date back to Oct. 18, including bank scams, and theft of checks and credit cards using false identities. In one incident, an 88-year-old woman was robbed of a box of checks, her credit cards and $650 in cash on Jan. 17 by two men who talked their way into her house on the ruse of doing paving work.
Horton said many of the credit card scams occurred in the TriCounty Mall area and at the Kohl's on Fields Ertel, where the group purchased bedding, clothes and electronic equipment. Sometimes they returned to a store every day for a week, spending $300 to $400 at a time, he said. "This is how they live. They live day to day," he said. "They are not settled in anywhere."
Horton said detectives have already identified some of the suspects in those thefts as Stanley's sons and daughters, cousins and other relatives.
"It's mind-boggling," he said of the expanse of relatives involved in the cases, a situation that has prompted him to map out the relationships to settle the confusion.
"Every time we talk about these people, we have to bring the flow chart out."
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