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In Hingham, a riddle named Wanpen Florentine

Multiple ID case heads to court

Wanpen Florentine

Wanpen Florentine

The neighbors knew her as Penny Collins, who lived in a quiet house up a long driveway at the end of Crooked Meadow Lane.

But after intensive investigations by the Hingham Police Department, she has been accused of being an illegal landlord and a fraud, and possibly even a criminal, whose several aliases and rope of alleged fabrications have started to unravel.

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And her real name, police say, is Wanpen Florentine.

“She’d drive by and wave and sometimes she’d stop and chat,” said Ellen Roe, who lives on Crooked Meadow Lane. “It’s a surprise, but she was a nice lady and we knew her as Penny . . . we didn’t know all the stuff that is going on.”

More than two months after her arrest, little is known about why Florentine allegedly had so many identities. This Thursday, she is scheduled to appear in Hingham District Court for a pretrial conference on various fraud charges, a first step in a process that could eventually clarify the picture.

Florentine is facing charges that include two counts of forging a Registry of Motor Vehicles document, one count of intimidating a witness, attempted false registration as a voter, and furnishing a false name.

She will also face charges on a separate complaint, involving obtaining credit by false financial statement and identity fraud, according to assistant district attorney Russ Eonas.

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The Plymouth district attorney’s office will prosecute after taking over the investigation from the Hingham police, which uncovered Florentine’s activities in February.

It all began when Hingham officers responded to a landlord-tenant dispute at an affordable housing unit at Ridgewood Crossing on Feb. 1, police said. Officers were told the landlord might have several aliases.

The information sparked a monthlong investigation, in which police discovered that Florentine had obtained at least two Massachusetts driver’s licenses and that she had registered to vote in Hingham under two names.

Police arrested the 62-year-old landlord on March 1 at her Crooked Meadow home, where she identified herself as Penny Collins. An FBI database matched her fingerprints to the Wanpen Florentine name days later, according to a release sent by Sergeant Steven Dearth of the Hingham Police Department.

It was just the tip of the iceberg for detectives, whose search of the Crooked Meadow Lane home on March 5 turned up five Social Security cards with different names, two resident alien cards with different names with her photo, a photocopy of an additional resident alien card and Social Security number, 11 Massachusetts driver’s licenses with her photo, 11 credit cards, six US passports with her photo, and multiple bank books and checkbooks.

Police said the names on the cards and documents included Penny Collins, Penny Siridee, Wanpen Collins, Laciga Rachaisri, Wanpen S.J. Collins, and Hieng Kridaratikon.

Police soon discovered that Florentine held a liquor license for Jack’s Cafe in Hingham under one of her names, and she owned the affordable housing condo at 23 Ridgewood Crossing under the Florentine name.

Betty Tower, an administrative secretary for the town of Hingham, said a woman named Penny Collins came into Town Hall once a year to renew the tavern’s liquor license, and nothing seemed odd.

(The town removed the license from Jack’s Cafe during a selectmen’s meeting on April 12.)

The house on Crooked Meadow Lane had been rebuilt after a fire in 2007 caused $1 million in damages.

The house is now assessed at $1.8 million, according to town records.

On Feb 26, firefighters responded because an allegedly illegal wood stove created high carbon monoxide levels, and police officers found multiple tenants in the house, Building Inspector Mark Grylls said.

The town went to housing court with Penny Collins a few days later about the property. According to Grylls, Collins and her attorney signed an agreement to return the Crooked Meadow Lane property to a single-family home and fix any violations.

Although that situation had been sorted out by the time of the arrest on March 1, she needed to post $25,000 cash bail to return home.

On March 9, Florentine was released and placed under house arrest. She remains in her Crooked Meadow Lane house, and could not be reached to comment for this article.

Two attorneys are listed on record for the charges against Florentine. Neither returned calls seeking comment.

Meanwhile, several government agencies are continuing to investigate.

Hingham Housing Authority executive director Sharon Napier said that her office, which verifies the ownership of all affordable housing units under its purview, is sorting through the allegations against Florentine regarding the Ridgewood Crossing property.

The federal Office of the Inspector General for Social Security is also looking into possible fraud. Spokesman John Lasher said he could not provide details.

E-mail Jessica Bartlett at jessica.may.bartlett@gmail.com.

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