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Australia police say nab "Catch Me If You Can" thief

Written by: Staff
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SYDNEY, July 7 (Reuters) An Australian woman nicknamed the ''Catch Me If You Can Thief'' appeared in court today charged with 34 counts of fraud after she was arrested with more than 100 fake identities and wigs.

Jodie Harris, 28, wanted in three states over a string of audacious identity thefts, had been on the run for years, taunting police to try and catch her.

''We've been waiting for her for some time,'' Magistrate Les Brennan told Sydney's Central Local Court as Harris was led into the dock today. ''I knew she would turn up some day,'' he said.

A pregnant Harris was arrested by police in Sydney yesterday in a ''sting operation'' involving a police officer believed to be her former boyfriend.

Local media have dubbed Harris the ''Catch Me If You Can'' thief, after the movie in which actor Leonardo DiCaprio played a master conman. She allegedly telephoned detectives, taunting them and offering up false promises to surrender.

''She has been pursued for a long time. She has come close to being arrested for sometime,'' New South Wales (NSW) state police detective Grant Taylor told reporters.

Police told the court that since July 2005, Harris had assumed the identities of at least five women in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne after meeting them socially.

She allegedly stole identity documents such as driver's licences and tricked bank staff into giving her access to the women's accounts, robbing them of more than 250,000 Australian dollar (US 185,000 dollar), local media reported from the court.

Harris' charges only relate to offences allegedly committed in NSW and police in Victoria state say they will seek her extradition after she faces the NSW charges.

Harris made no application for bail and was remanded in custody to face the same court on August 1.

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