Four Convicted In Northeast Houston Theft And Fraud Ring
HOUSTON – Dana Sue Hales, 41, has entered a plea of guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, possessing stolen mail and aggravated identity theft, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today along with Bernard Butler, acting special agent in charge, Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation. With her plea, a total of four Houston area residents have now been convicted in federal court in relation to a theft and fraud ring that operated in Northeast Harris County and elsewhere.
Last week, Lindsay Ann Grice, 26, and Jason Craig White, 32, entered pleas of guilty to their part in the conspiracy. Grice was convicted of bank fraud and aggravated identity theft, while White pleaded to possessing stolen mail and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. On Aug. 9, 2013, Joseph Scott Ryder, 44, also entered pleas of guilty to possessing stolen mail and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
“Individuals who commit identity theft and refund fraud deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” said Butler. “These individuals demonstrated a blatant disregard of the integrity of the United States tax system and caused immeasurable hardship to innocent victims. IRS - CI remains committed to the pursuit of identity theft and, together with our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, we will hold those who engage in similar conduct accountable.”
According to the information revealed in open court, beginning at least in January 2012 the defendants broke into “blue” mail boxes located at or near area post offices to steal mail. Much of what the defendants stole included outgoing mail from citizens paying their bills. After opening the mail, they created false identifications and used them to open bank accounts and deposit the checks. On more than one occasion, area law enforcement were able to seize gym bags full of stolen mail from locations where the defendants were staying.
During the investigation, Grice was identified from bank surveillance photos negotiating stolen checks at First Convenience Bank. At the time of her guilty plea, she admitted she participated in the mail theft ring and had used the personal identification information of another person to cash stolen checks.
Information from court documents also revealed that in addition to stealing mail and cashing the checks using false identifications, Hales prepared false federal income tax returns and deposited the refund checks to accounts under her control.
On Sept. 5, 2012, Ryder was arrested at the residence of Hales on a parole violation warrant, at which time he was found to be in possession of a firearm. Ryder subsequently admitted that he, Hales and White were stealing mail, creating false identifications and cashing checks.
Later that month, agents and officers attempted the arrest of White, at which time he fled and attempted to pull a firearm. However, he dropped the gun and was arrested a short distance away. Stolen mail and additional firearms were found in a subsequent search of the residence. White confessed to participating with Hales, Ryder and others in stealing mail.
The conspiracy count and the bank fraud counts each carry a possible punishment of up to 30 years imprisonment as well as $1 million fine. For possessing stolen mail, all but Grice face an additional five-year possible term of federal imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. White and Ryder each also face a possible punishment of up to 10 years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine for being felons in possession of a firearm. Additionally, Hales and Grice will also have to serve a mandatory two-year prison term for aggravated identity theft which must be served consecutively to any sentence imposed.
U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon, who accepted the pleas, has set Ryder’s sentencing for Oct. 25, 2013, while Grice and White will be sentenced Nov. 18, 2013. Hales is set for Nov. 22.
The matter was investigated by IRS-CI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service with important contributions from the Harris County Sheriff’s Department, Harris County Precinct Four Constable’s Office, Humble Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as well as the U.S. Marshals Service Violent Offenders Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney James R. Buchanan.