News and Press Releases

Broward County Resident Sentenced for Identity Theft Scheme

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 19, 2012

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), Miami Field Office, and Paula Reid, Special Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service, Miami Field Office, announce yesterday’s sentencing of Altan Melissa Erskine, 41, of Fort Lauderdale, on one count of aggravated identity theft. U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley sentenced Erskine to two years in prison, to be followed by one year of supervised release. Erskine previously pled guilty to this charge.

According to court documents, on March 6, 2012, Erskine met with a confidential informant (CI), and the two discussed acquiring and negotiating fraudulently obtained tax refund checks. Erskine told the CI that she had a contact at First Data Merchant (First Data), who could provide the personal identification of unwitting victims for a fee. First Data is a payment processing company in Broward County, and conducts transactions for merchants, including processing credit, debit and gift cards.

According to court documents, the CI sent a list of randomly selected names to Erskine so that Erskine could obtain their personal identification information. Subsequently, the CI received a text message from Erskine in which Erskine stated that the cost for a person’s Social Security, date of birth, and driver’s license information would be $150. Erskine told the CI that co-defendant Shanna Johnson, who worked at First Data, was prepared to provide the personal identification information for the names that the CI had provided. In fact, Johnson provided Erskine with the personal identification information of 10 individuals. Subsequently, First Data’s Corporate Security Department identified Johnson as the employee who used the company’s database to research the personal identification information of various individuals.

Johnson pled guilty on May 21, 2012 to Count 2 of an Indictment, which charged that she intentionally exceeded authorized access to a protected computer, to obtain the personal identification information of another person, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1030(a)(2)(C). She also pled guilty to Count 3, which charged her with aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A(a)(1), and (c)(4). Johnson was sentenced on August 10, 2012 to a total of 24 months in prison, to be followed by one year of supervised release.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CID and the Secret Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurie E. Rucoba.

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A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

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