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Salvation Army bell ringer gets prison for ID theft

<p>Joe F. Horton, 52, of Chicago, has been sentenced to a year in prison, for trying to use a Naperville woman's bank debit card. Horton found the woman's wallet and debit card early last month while stationed outside a Naperville supermarket as a Salvation Army bell ringer. | Courtesy of the DuPage County Sheriff's Office</p>

Joe F. Horton, 52, of Chicago, has been sentenced to a year in prison, for trying to use a Naperville woman's bank debit card. Horton found the woman's wallet and debit card early last month while stationed outside a Naperville supermarket as a Salvation Army bell ringer. | Courtesy of the DuPage County Sheriff's Office

A man from Chicago has been sentenced to a year in prison, for trying to use a credit card from a wallet he found last month while serving as a Salvation Army bell ringer in Naperville.

Joe F. Horton pleaded guilty in DuPage County Circuit Court to a felony charge of identity theft, said Paul Darrah, spokesman for State’s Attorney Robert B. Berlin.

Judge George J. Bakalis convicted Horton in the case and imposed the prison term. Darrah said Bakalis gave Horton credit toward his sentence for the time he has spent in DuPage County Jail since Dec. 5, when he was arrested.

Bakalis also placed Horton on a year of mandatory supervised release and ordered him to pay $732 in court costs, Darrah said.

Horton, 52, had also faced trial on a misdemeanor count of theft, for stealing just over $1,000 from his Salvation Army donation kettle. Darrah said that charge was dismissed in exchange for Horton’s plea in the identity theft case.

A woman on Dec. 1 told Naperville police she lost her wallet while shopping the day before at the now-closed Dominick’s Finer Foods store at 1300 S. Naper Blvd. on the city’s far east side. The wallet contained her identification and credit cards.

The woman on Dec. 2 was notified of an attempt to use one of her credit cards in Chicago, police said last month. Subsequent investigation led them to Horton.

Berlin in December said Horton found the wallet in front of the Dominick’s store not far from where he was serving as a bell ringer, and later tried to use the woman’s credit card.

Further investigation determined Horton stole a total of $1,030 in donations from his kettle early in the Thanksgiving-Christmas holiday season, Berlin said.

Berlin characterized Horton’s conduct as “outrageous,” adding “the very idea that someone would steal donations meant for the less fortunate is sickening ...”

Horton remained Friday night in jail, pending his transfer into the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections.

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