News and Press Releases

Decade-long Scheme Stealing Credit Cards From Gym Lockers to Purchase and Sell High-end Goods

November 13, 2009

BILLY MORRIS BRITT, 37, of Renton, Washington was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 61 months in prison, five years of supervised release and $466,622 in restitution for Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud and Access Device Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft. BRITT was a key participant in an ID theft ring that netted as much as $3 million selling stolen goods on eBay. BRITT’s role in the scheme was to steal credit cards from gym lockers, manufacture counterfeit IDs, and use the stolen credit cards with the counterfeit IDs to purchase high-end electronics. BRITT is responsible for over $450,000.00 in losses to twenty-three different financial institutions and the theft of hundreds of victims’ credit cards and identities. At sentencing Chief U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik told him this crime “was especially invasive... and involved going into gym lockers and rummaging through people’s belongings.” Judge Lasnik commented that these incidents created the “potential for violence... with people robbing gym lockers.”

According to records filed in the case, members of the conspiracy would frequent work-out facilities and fitness centers in Washington, Oregon and as far away as Georgia, and would break into the lockers of people using the work out facilities. The conspirators would remove credit cards from wallets they found in the lockers, and working with equipment in their cars, would make phony identification to go with the credit cards. BRITT was one of the conspirators who purchased numerous high end electronics using the credit cards and fake IDs before the owners could report the cards stolen. The goods were shipped to co-conspirator Gabriel Jang, 37, of Newcastle, Washington, who then sold the items on eBay. PayPal records indicate Jang’s account received more than $3 million between April of 2001, and August of 2008.

The investigation revealed that BRITT registered for a Best Buy rewards account in the name of one of the victims. BRITT used that rewards account on more than $488,000 of fraudulent purchases. Over a 14 month period the rewards account was linked to 125 different credit card purchases involving 77 different credit cards. The email address and the residence address associated with the rewards account was traced back to BRITT. Investigators found the credit cards that had been fraudulently used at Best Buy were also used at Apple stores in Washington and Oregon.

In late October 2008, Lynnwood Police arrested BRITT after he tried to purchase a laptop at a Best Buy store using a stolen credit card and fake ID. BRITT ran from the store and was found hiding in a pile of sand. Officers later searched BRITT’s car and found computer equipment hooked up to the car’s electrical system for a mobile fake ID lab. A backpack in the car contained a stack of white plastic cards cut to the size of an ID or credit card.

In his sentencing memo to the court Assistant United States Attorney Norman Barbosa wrote “identity theft poses a serious danger to the community, victimizing a growing and staggering number of innocent people who have done nothing more than assume their mail will be delivered, their credit and banking transactions will be kept secure, their personal matters will remain personal, and their good reputations will stay intact.... Every person in the community is at risk. Rings of thieves steal mail, prowl cars and burglarize homes. They work in stores, telemarketing companies, mortgage companies, banks – all places where personal information regarding customers is stored and maintained.”

Jang is scheduled to be sentenced by Chief Judge Lasnik on February 5, 2010.

The case was investigated by the Secret Service Electric Crimes Task Force, the Seattle Police Department and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), with assistance from numerous local police departments including the Bothell Police, the Beaverton, Oregon Police Department, the Tualatin, Oregon Police Department, the Lynnwood, Police Department and the Renton Police Department.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Norman Barbosa, Kathryn Warma and Darwin Roberts.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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