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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


MAY 20, 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


TWO DEFENDANTS SENTENCED FOR

IDENTITY THEFT CONSPIRACY


            KANSAS CITY, Mo. – John F. Wood, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that two defendants were sentenced in federal court today for participating in an identity theft conspiracy.


            Tarik I. Liwaru, 34, of Kansas City, Kan., and Michelle Rene Williams, 40, of Kansas City, Mo., were sentenced in separate appearances before U.S. District Judge Ortrie D. Smith. Liwaru was sentenced to five years in federal prison without parole, which is the statutory maximum penalty. The court also ordered Liwaru to pay $160,272 in restitution. Williams was sentenced to 30 months federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Williams to pay $114,283 in restitution.


            Approximately 116 victims suffered a total loss of more than $400,000 as a result of two separate fraud schemes that were perpetrated using stolen identity information. Among 16 co-defendants charged in an Aug. 10, 2006, federal indictment and a later superseding indictment, four co-defendants have been convicted at trial and 12 co-defendants have pleaded guilty.


            On Oct. 26, 2007, Liwaru, along with co-defendants Carlton Strother, 39, and Arlester E. Scott, Jr., 42, both of Kansas City, and Chandra L. Jenkins, 28, of Plano, Texas, were convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy to commit identity theft and access device fraud. 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.


            Strother and Jenkins were also convicted of participating in a separate conspiracy, a mortgage fraud scheme that 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. Strother and Jenkins are scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday, May 21, 2008. A sentencing hearing for Scott has not been scheduled.

 

            Liwaru, Scott and Strother were found guilty of participating in the conspiracy to commit identity theft from March 3, 2005, to Sept. 26, 2005. They obtained personal identification information of persons together with their personal credit information. They used a 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.


            Liwaru provided Strother with stolen credit bureau reports from Hearthside Lending. Evidence presented during the trial indicates that 76 victims (who had been customers of Hearthside Lending) suffered a total loss of more than $160,272 as a result of the first conspiracy.


            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. Evidence presented during the trial indicates that 40 victims (who had been customers of Jeremy Franklin Suzuki) suffered a total loss of more than $67,837 as a result of the first conspiracy.


            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, or shoppers. The shoppers 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.


            On Oct. 5, 2007, Williams pleaded guilty to her role in the identity theft conspiracy. Williams admitted that she used the stolen identity information of at least eight different victims to make instant credit applications and more than $85,884 in purchases over a period of about five months during the summer of 2005.


            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