News and Press Releases

Ten Members of “Felony Lane Gang” Charged with Interstate Identity Theft and Bank Fraud

December 20, 2012

     The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that a federal grand jury in Harrisburg returned an indictment charging 10 individuals for their involvement in “Felony Lane Gang” conspiracy.

     According to United States Attorney Peter Smith, the “Felony Lane Gang” is a group based primarily in South Florida that allegedly travels across the United States stealing identities and checkbooks from unattended cars (“smash and grabs”) and thereafter uses the drive through lane of banks (“felony lane”) to make fraudulent transactions with the stolen identity information.

     Wednesday, a grand jury returned a four count indictment charging 10 people with conspiracy to commit fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The individuals indicted are: Travis J. Russ, age 30, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Sylvester Joseph, age 26, of Derrfield, Florida; Jarrett Hobbs, age 31, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Khiante Thompson, age 20, Florida; Phillip Etienne, age 31, of Margate, Florida; Willie L. Ogiste, age 35, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Teresa L. Brimhall, age 45, of Oakland Park, Florida; April Ainsworth, age 26, of Richmond, Texas; Colleen Shelly, age 49, of Lauderdale Lakes, Florida; and Wendy Snyder-Lucas, age 31, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

     The 10 persons charged in this indictment allegedly struck Pennsylvania from August to October 2012. During that time, they allegedly broke into and/or stole the identities of over 100 people. In addition, the group allegedly targeted state parks where victims left purses, wallets, and checkbooks in their cars while using the recreation facilities. The “smash and grabs” occurred at approximately 25 different state parks and recreation centers in and around the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

     This group allegedly used stolen checks and identification to obtain funds from banks and credit unions. According to the indictment, a conspirator, disguised as the account holder, used the drive-through lane at the account holder’s bank, submitted to the teller a forged check with the stolen identification of the victim, on numerous occasions, and received the funds. Through this process, these conspirators successfully compromised numerous accounts and stole tens of thousands of dollars in funds from the victims.

     This investigation was conducted by the United States Department of Homeland Security Investigations, the United States Secret Service, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and other state and local investigative agencies. The prosecutor assigned to the case is Assistant United States Attorney Michael A. Consiglio.

     Indictments and Criminal Informations are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.

     A sentence following a finding of guilty is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

     In this particular case, the maximum penalty under the federal statute is 30 years’ imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant’s educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.



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