Three California Men Sentenced for Identity Theft Scam
Three California men were sentenced on June 10, 2011 for their roles in a credit card fraud and identity theft scheme, announced Jerry E. Martin, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, Sarah Beth Pulliam, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service’s Nashville Office and Paul Armes, Federal Security Director, Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
David Clay Lyles, Jr., 36, of Tracy, California was sentenced to 164 months in prison; Devin Leverett, Sr., 36, of Oakland, California was sentenced to 108 months in prison and James Johnson, Jr., 25, also of Oakland, California was sentenced to 94 months in prison.
“Identity theft has become a serious public concern because of the ease with which it can be accomplished and because of its insidious nature,” said U.S. Attorney Martin. “The crime of identity theft often goes undetected until great harm has been done. Even though the financial losses may be born ultimately by financial institutions, identity theft remains a source of considerable anxiety for its individual victims. Fortunately, in this case, the stolen credit and debit card account numbers that the defendants had in their possession and the proceeds of the crimes they committed here were recovered. Individuals who are tempted to steal and use the account numbers of others should know that they will be caught and held accountable for their crimes.”
According to testimony during their guilty plea and sentencing hearings, Lyles, Leverett, and Johnson traveled to Nashville from San Francisco on February 1, 2010 with three other co-defendants, while possessing 977 gift cards that had been encoded with stolen credit card or debit card account numbers. The defendants visited 13 Wal-Mart stores in the Nashville area and used 192 of those re-encoded gift cards to purchase 399 Wal-Mart gift cards and 227 Visa Green Dot gift cards, for approximately $100 each, resulting in a total loss of approximately $61,419. Testimony also revealed that the defendants had engaged in similar criminal activity in five other states, including California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Oklahoma, before being apprehended in Nashville.
On February 3, 2010, the defendants returned to the Nashville International Airport with reservations for a return flight to San Francisco. An airport TSA screener conducted a routine x-ray scan of the luggage belonging to one of the defendants and upon further inspection, discovered it contained hundreds of Wal-Mart gift cards. Law enforcement officials used a card reading device to examine the information encoded on the magnetic strips on the back of the gift cards and discovered that many of the gift cards were encoded with account numbers that did not match account numbers embossed on the fronts of the gift cards. Five of the six defendants were arrested at the airport and charged with various offenses relating to credit card fraud and identity theft and have pleaded guilty.
Two co-defendants, Aisha Garrison, 31, and Sylvester Knight, 43, both of the San Francisco Bay area are awaiting sentencing. The remaining defendant, James Watson, 50, of San Leandro, California has not yet been apprehended.
This case was investigated by the Transportation Security Administration, the United States Secret Service, the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority and the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department. The United States is represented by Assistant United States Attorney Byron Jones.
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