Mini-Madoff: How a Pennsylvania matron stole identity, thousands

Over the past year, as high-profile scam artists like Bernie Madoff, Allan Stanford, and Danny Pang were unmasked as frauds, we seemed to be entering a golden age of weakness and immorality. But while they were busy stealing attention and money, scores of small-time, small-town crooks escaped widespread notice.

In any ordinary news season, the face of Bonnie Sweeten -- hardworking blonde suburban mom of three daughters and unlikely identity thief -- would have been plastered on the cover of every gossip magazine in the supermarket. Long before she pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of identity theft and filing a false report, her neighbors in the Philadelphia suburb of Feasterville knew the 38-year-old Sweeten as the perfect friend: honest, caring, trustworthy. By pleading guilty, she has followed in the footsteps of fellow schemer Madoff; like him, she has ensured that the details of her sordid story will never be fully unraveled.