Identity Theft Ring Members Sentenced to Federal Prison
United States Attorney James L. Santelle of the Eastern District of Wisconsin announced that Verita Hines-Flagg (age: 54) of Belleville, MI and Benjamin Hines (age: 29) of Detroit, MI were both sentenced to federal prison for their role in an identity theft ring which operated out of Michigan. On August 19, 2014, Benjamin Hines (Hines) was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud followed by three years of supervised release. On August 21, 2014, Verita Hines-Flagg (Hines-Flagg) was sentenced to three years in prison for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud followed by a two year consecutive sentence for aggravated identity theft, for a total sentence of five years.
According to information released in court, in October 2012, the Brown Deer Police Department was notified by the Kohl’s Department store that two individuals had opened a $1,000 line of credit in an apparent identity theft. Loss prevention personnel in the store witnessed the account opening, the use of the suspicious identification document, and observed the individuals purchase a large amount of merchandise totaling approximately $1,000 immediately after opening the account. The items they purchased included several cell telephones and other items easily re-sold for profit.
When officers arrived they observed a Lincoln car with out-of state plates in the parking lot, blocking traffic. The driver was identified as Hines. Hines-Flagg was identified as the passenger in the vehicle. Both Hines-Flagg and Hines were taken into custody on theft charges. The Lincoln they were driving was a brand new 2012 Luxury Lincoln and was valued at over $50,000. The investigation of the Lincoln determined that the vehicle was a fraudulently leased vehicle and the lessee listed on the Illinois registration was a victim in the identity theft scheme. During the same time period, four other luxury cars were also purchased by the co-conspirators, all of which were purchased by the conspirators using the stolen identities of various crime victims.
Evidence in this case indicated that Hines-Flagg and Hines were working with members of the conspiracy to sell the five stolen vehicles. The total value of the five stolen vehicles was over $300,000. The Lincoln’s contents and personal property of Hines-Flag and Hines were inventoried and contained five fake Michigan driver’s licenses, the personal identifying information of several identity theft victims, and over $20,000 of fraudulently purchased merchandise from various retails stores in the Eastern District of Wisconsin.
The investigation determined that Hines-Flagg and Hines traveled to Wisconsin from Detroit, Michigan in the stolen Lincoln with the intent to obtain property and return to Michigan where the defendants and their co-conspirators intended to sell the property.
The case was investigated by the United States Postal Service, Homeland Security Investigations, the Wisconsin State Department of Justice, and the Brown Deer Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Karine Moreno-Taxman.