GRAND JURY INDICTS ID THEFT RING THAT USED INSIDERS AT A MORTGAGE COMPANY AND ESCROW FIRM TO STEAL PERSONAL INFORMATION
Conspirators Responsible for More than $335,000 in Fraud
Six people have been indicted in connection with a massive identity theft scheme that used personal identifying information provided by insiders at a mortgage company and escrow firm. Members of the conspiracy took over bank accounts and drained them, and opened credit accounts in victim names and ran up thousands of dollars in bills. The defendants have been charged with Conspiracy to Commit Identity Theft and Bank Fraud as well as multiple counts of Aggravated Identity Theft. In all more than $335,000 in fraud has been linked to this conspiracy.
The leaders of the ID theft ring, CHARLES W. GRIFFIN, 35, of Federal Way, and BIANCA BOWLER, 29, of Seattle, were arrested this morning and will make their initial appearances on the indictment this afternoon at 2:30 in the U.S. District Courthouse in Seattle. If convicted GRIFFIN and BOWLER face up to 30 years in prison.
According to the indictment unsealed today, GRIFFIN recruited Seattle resident JUANITA BOOKER, 35, who worked at a Bellevue mortgage company. BOOKER supplied GRIFFIN with the personal and financial information of numerous people who had applied for mortgages at the Bellevue company. Similarly, GRIFFIN recruited RAYNETTE ARMSTRONG, 29, of Seattle, who worked at a Bellevue escrow firm. ARMSTRONG also provided GRIFFIN with personal and financial information on clients of the escrow firm. Using this information, GRIFFIN and other conspirators were able to locate the victims’ bank accounts and other personal financial information.
GRIFFIN recruited two other co-conspirators to make counterfeit drivers licenses using the names and information of the victims, but bearing the photographs of the co-conspirators. BIANCA BOWLER and GREGORY WHITE, 39, of Seattle, Washington were found to have elaborate computer set-ups for manufacturing counterfeit drivers licenses when their home at 219 29th Avenue East was searched by U.S. Probation in August 2005. WHITE is currently serving a 32 month sentence for making and possessing counterfeit securities related to a 2003 scheme in which WHITE and others were counterfeiting American Express traveler’s checks. At the time U.S. Probation searched his home in August 2005, WHITE was on pre-trial release awaiting trial on his earlier counterfeiting charges.
GRIFFIN worked with a number of other co-conspirators to use the fake ID’s to pose as bank account holders. The conspirators traveled to various banks in Oregon and Washington to drain bank accounts. The conspirators also opened credit accounts and racked up huge charges at large stores such as Lowes, Home Depot, Best Buy, and Wal-Mart. They also hit jewelry stores such as Friedlanders and International Jewelers.
Some of the co-conspirators are already serving lengthy prison terms. The primary “runner,” who used the stolen identities, Elizabeth Angous, was sentenced October 13, 2006, to nearly eight years in prison for bank fraud, wire fraud, social security fraud, credit card fraud and Aggravated Identity theft. Another runner, Belinda Stuckey, was sentenced November 17, 2006 to 42 months in prison for Bank Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft.
An indictment contains allegations that have not yet been proven at trial beyond a reasonable doubt.
Today’s arrests are the result of an eighteen month investigation by a joint task force composed of the Social Security Office of Inspector General, the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), United States Probation, the Lynwood Police Department, the King County Sheriff's Office and the Seattle Police Department.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Norman Barbosa.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.