A Fayette County truck driver pretended for years to be an Arizona rodeo star so that she could get saddles, attention from men and, most of all, hundreds of cell phones, prosecutors said at her guilty plea hearing Thursday.
Susan Rowan, 39, of Vanderbilt, pretended in emails to be Sherry Cervi, a two-time world champion barrel racer, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Kitchen said at the plea hearing before U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone.
He said Ms. Rowan contacted Sprint Communications by email and claimed "that she was a wealthy rodeo star with a business interest" and employees in need of cell phones.
From July 2008 until February 2010, Ms. Rowan ordered some 700 phones, and Sprint sent more than 500, Mr. Kitchen said. Ms. Rowan gave some to relatives and friends.
All of the phones were activated, and some but not all were used, Mr. Kitchen said. The total cost to Sprint, he said, was $432,000 in phones and services.
When a Sprint investigator confronted her, she returned 170 phones and said she burned many more in a field, according to Mr. Kitchen.
Mr. Kitchen said that Ms. Rowan also pretended to be Ms. Cervi in communications with a saddle maker who provided two customized saddles for her. The saddle maker suffered an $8,000 loss, Mr. Kitchen said.
In addition, Ms. Rowan exchanged emails with three men who came to Western Pennsylvania to meet her, where she "continued to pretend to be Sherry Cervi," Mr. Kitchen said.
The real Sherry Cervi is an Arizona native and a repeat National Finals Rodeo qualifier.
Assistant federal public defender Linda E.J. Cohn said she disputed the prosecution's calculation of the losses as well as "several details that really do not go to the elements of this offense."
She declined to say more after the plea hearing.
Judge Cercone scheduled Ms. Rowan's sentencing for July 2.
Rich Lord: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1542 and on Twitter: @richelord.