‘Empire’ star’s identity used to make $12K in fraudulent purchases, prosecutors say

Alicia Renee Newby, of Galewood, has been charged with one count of continuing a financial crime enterprise.

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“Empire” actress Taraji P. Henson (left) was the victim of identity theft, allegedly at the hands of Alicia Renee Newby.

Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times; Police

A woman charged with stealing the identity of “Empire” star Taraji P. Henson last year and using her personal information to rack up thousands in fraudulent charges was released on a cashless bond following her initial court hearing Sunday.

Alicia Renee Newby, 29, of Galewood, faces a felony count of continuing a financial crime enterprise in connection with the scheme, which was unearthed last August and includes multiple other victims, according to Cook County prosecutors.

While court records identify 48-year-old Henson as one of Newby’s alleged victims, Assistant State’s Attorney James Costello didn’t name the Oscar nominee during the hearing before Judge Charles Beach.

After compromising Henson’s email account, Newby used her personal information and cash to make 26 fraudulent transactions totaling more than $12,000, Costello said. Some of those transactions, worth more than $4,000, were canceled when Henson’s manager unearthed the fraud last August.

The items were being shipped to a pair of addresses on the South Side that had utilities in Newby’s name, according to Costello, who said she had leased an apartment at one of the addresses using another victim’s stolen identity.

A month after Henson reported the identity theft, a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier refused to deliver packages to one of the addresses because she “believed that they were the fruits of [identity] theft,” Costello said.

After Newby allegedly demanded the packages and assaulted the postal worker, officers responded and captured her demands on camera, Costello said. She eventually recovered the items after “causing a scene” at a post office.

Last December, Newby abandoned one of the apartments, leaving behind damages and unpaid rent that totaled more than $4,000, Costello said. She resurfaced months later when she allegedly pawned a stolen designer purse using her Illinois state identification.

The pawn shop owner and several postal workers later positively identified her from photo arrays, Costello said. Investigators also examined social media and email accounts and other records that allegedly tied Newby to the identity theft.

On Saturday, Newby was arrested at her apartment on a no-bail warrant, Costello said. Officers recovered items that are believed to have been purchased as part of the scheme, including several electronic devices that are awaiting forensic analysis.

Newby, who has bipolar disorder and is pregnant with her seventh child, wept throughout much of her bail hearing, where she was granted a $10,000 personal recognizance bond. Judge Beach also ordered her to remain on electronic monitoring and barred her from using the internet and having any contact with the victims.

She was released from custody around 5 p.m. Sunday, according to Cook County sheriff’s office spokeswoman Sophia Ansari. Two men who supported her in court declined to comment after the hearing.

Newby’s next court date was set for Aug. 8.

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