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17 September 2014
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Case Studies


Occupation: Former office manager
Disorder: Compulsive shopping

Rosemary Heinen
Rosemary behaved like a different person whenever she entered a shop
We all like to treat ourselves occasionally by going out and buying a new pair of shoes, or a new pair of earrings. But Rosemary Heinen went to extreme lengths to exercise her rights as a consumer.

Over a period of six months in 1999, she embezzled over $3.7 million (£2.3 million) from a company in her native Seattle to fund a series of mammoth shopping sprees.

Rosemary's shopping list

She quickly amassed an enormous inventory of items, most of which remained untouched after purchase. They included:
  • 32 cars
  • 192 items of jewellery
  • 1,200 items of designer clothing (all unused)
  • Four Rolex watches
  • 600 Barbie dolls (Rosemary has an obsession with Barbie dolls stemming from childhood)
Rosemary going shopping
Rosemary chooses items from the shelves of a convenience store in Seattle
In order to hide the fruits of her labours, she hoarded all these items in 30 lock-up units at a local storage firm.

Caught by the fuzz

But it all came to a dramatic end after Rosemary had returned by plane to Seattle from a cruise holiday with her husband Jerry.

"Everybody got up and we were taking our luggage off the racks. Then they announced there was going to be a slight delay," says Rosemary.

"There was a whole bunch of policemen that just stormed onto the plane. And they were asking for us," Rosemary explains. "I thought, 'I got caught, now it's over.' I don't have to worry about it anymore. I felt relief actually."

Rosemary Heinen
Rosemary is philosophical about her future as her day in court looms
Although her husband was later released without charge, Rosemary was charged with 40 counts of theft. Jerry and the couple's daughter Lisa knew nothing about Rosemary's compulsive behaviour.

Compulsive shopping

Rosemary claims to have a condition called compulsive shopping. Compulsive shoppers are unable to resist a temptation to buy things they don't need. She says the symptoms appeared when she became post-natally depressed after the birth of Lisa.

Rosemary is now facing a lengthy jail sentence. The state prosecutor in her case is pushing for a seven-year jail sentence as a result of the large amount of money that she took.

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