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NEWS RELEASE

OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY

WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI


JOHN F. WOOD


Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html


OCTOBER 26, 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


JURY CONVICTS FOUR DEFENDANTS IN

IDENTITY THEFT CONSPIRACIES


            KANSAS CITY, Mo. – John F. Wood, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that four defendants were convicted by a federal jury today for participating in separate identity theft conspiracies.


            Carlton Strother, 39, and Arlester E. Scott, Jr., 42, both of Kansas City, Mo., Tarik I. Liwaru, 34, of Kansas City, Kan., and Chandra L. Jenkins, 28, of Plano, Texas, were found guilty of all charges contained in an Aug. 10, 2006, federal indictment.


            Two separate conspiracies, both using stolen identity information and counterfeit Kansas driver’s licenses, resulted in significant losses for 23 victims.


            In the first conspiracy, the defendants used stolen identity information to open credit accounts and make purchases at stores like Sam’s Club, Target, Old Navy, Home Depot and others. They also used the stolen identity information to finance an automobile purchase and to apply for cellular telephone service.


            A second conspiracy involved the use of stolen identity information to obtain more than $2 million in mortgages. Conspirators obtained three separate mortgages to purchase homes in Lee’s Summit and Kansas City, as well as lines of credit and credit cards at a bank in Texas.

 

            In addition to the four defendants who were convicted today, 12 co-defendants have pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to commit identity theft, and await sentencing.

 

            Following the presentation of evidence, the jury in U.S. District Court in Kansas City deliberated eight hours over two days before returning the guilty verdicts to U.S. District Judge Ortrie D. Smith, ending a trial that began Monday, Oct. 22, 2007.


            Strother, Liwaru and Scott were found guilty of participating in a conspiracy to commit identity theft from March 3, 2005, to Sept. 26, 2005, by obtaining personal identification information of persons together with their personal credit information, then using a personal computer to create counterfeit driver’s licenses in the names of the identity theft victims for the purpose of making unauthorized applications for credit. Personal identity information of the identity theft victims was stolen from two Kansas City-area businesses – Jeremy Franklin Suzuki and Hearthside Lending, a real estate loan brokerage – that kept large volumes of credit information of their customers, including credit bureau reports that reflected the creditworthiness of each identity theft victim.


            Scott, a former employee of Jeremy Franklin Suzuki, stole credit bureau reports obtained by the car dealership in connection with the financing of automobile sales, then sold them to Strother. Liwaru provided Strother with stolen credit bureau reports from Hearthside Lending.


            Conspirators who managed the scheme recruited others to the conspiracy by promising them a share of the proceeds. The identity theft victims’ financial information was used by the conspirators to make computer-generated counterfeit Kansas driver’s licenses, which contained the information of the identity theft victims, but with the photo of one of the recruited conspirators. The conspirators used the stolen identities and counterfeit driver’s licenses to make instant credit applications at retail stores while posing as the identity theft victims. Once the instant credit applications were approved, they made credit purchases at the stores.


            Strother was also found guilty of 13 counts of aggravated identity theft and 10 counts of access device fraud. On 17 separate instances from March 9, 2005, through Sept. 25, 2005, Strother used stolen identity information in order to defraud retail stores (and credit card companies that serviced the credit accounts of those stores) by opening credit accounts using the identity and credit information of identity theft victims. On 11 separate instances, Strother then used the credit accounts to make purchases.


            Strother and Jenkins were also found guilty of participating in a conspiracy from January 2006 to March 24, 2006, to defraud financial institutions and mortgage companies by making applications for real estate mortgages and other forms of credit using the identities and credit worthiness of identity theft victims. They obtained means of identification consisting of names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers of others without their authority or knowledge and used that identity information to apply for mortgage loans to purchase real estate. The proceeds of the mortgage loans were applied to fraudulent accounts of non-existent business entities in order for the conspirators to take cash out of each transaction.


            Conspirators agreed to acquire stolen identification and personal financial information from area mortgage companies. The conspirators found a source to provide counterfeit Kansas driver’s licenses through an unindicted co-conspirator, who purchased them from Strother. The conspirators who managed the scheme recruited others by promising to share the proceeds derived from the mortgage transactions.


            Conspirators used stolen identity information to obtain three separate mortgages for two residential properties in Lee’s Summit and one property in Kansas City, totaling $1,166,000. Conspirators opened bank accounts in the names of identity theft victims and non-existent businesses, then had a portion of the loan proceeds wired to those accounts. Conspirators withdrew funds from those accounts and shared the proceeds.


            Jenkins was also found guilty of four counts of aggravated identity theft. Jenkins, who at the time was an employee of a Wells Fargo Bank branch in Dallas, Texas, opened two business accounts at Wells Fargo Bank using stolen identity information. Jenkins then used the stolen identity information to make four applications for business lines of credit and credit cards at Wells Fargo Bank.


            This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John E. Cowles. It was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service Financial Crimes Task Force, including officers from the Independence, Mo., Police Department, the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department, the Overland Park, Kan., Police Department, the Johnson County, Kan., Sheriff’s Department, the U. S. Postal Inspection Service, and IRS-Criminal Investigation.


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This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html