Due to the lapse in appropriations, Department of Justice websites will not be regularly updated. The Department’s essential law enforcement and national security functions will continue. Please refer to the Department of Justice’s contingency plan for more information.

You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Georgia

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Identity Thief Indicted On Federal Charges

TSA Caught Defendant with Nearly 100 Fraudulent Credit Cards

ATLANTA - Elton Lee Flenaugh has been indicted on charges of conspiracy, possession of counterfeit access devices, and aggravated identity theft after TSA discovered fraudulent credit cards in his carry-on bag during pre-flight security screening.   

“Identity theft and credit card fraud is a pervasive problem that comes to light in many different ways, usually after the damage is already done,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.  “Alert TSA agents should be commended for catching this thief red-handed and referring him to law enforcement.”

According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges, and other information presented in court, on February 9, 2013, Flenaugh and a female companion, who reside in the San Francisco Bay Area, were scheduled to fly from Atlanta to Phoenix, Az. on United Airways Flight 88 at 7:40 a.m.  As they approached TSA’s main pre-flight security screening checkpoint, Flenaugh handed his backpack to his companion.  He then left her and presented himself for screening without any carry-on items.  He used TSA’s identity verification process because he claimed to be flying without any photo identification.  Flenaugh provided TSA with an alias during this process, using the name “Joshua Ford.”

Flenaugh’s companion presented carry-on bags to TSA for screening, including Flenaugh’s backpack.  While the backpack was being x-rayed, an alert TSA employee noticed a suspicious package.  Upon further inspection a stash of nearly 100 fraudulent credit cards was discovered hidden inside an empty Lay’s potato chip bag.  The credit cards were in various male and female names -- including 33 in the name of Flenaugh’s female companion.  Additionally, 21 of the credit cards had not yet been embossed with names or account numbers. 

A subsequent search of the backpack by the Atlanta Police Department (APD) revealed multiple fraudulent drivers licenses secreted in various places in the backpack.  Licenses from various states including Arizona, New Jersey, and Ohio were found under the insole of a pair of men’s tennis shoes.  Three had different names bearing Flenaugh’s photograph.

Flenaugh tried to flee but was arrested by APD, and charged with state credit card fraud offenses.  On March 4, 2013, the U.S. Secret Service arrested him and charged him by complaint with one count of possession of 15 or more counterfeit or unauthorized access devices. 

On March 7, 2013, U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda T. Walker ordered Flenaugh, 33, a/k/a Joshua Ford a/k/a Ali Emir Waheed, of Richmond, Calif., to remain in federal custody pending trial both as a flight risk and as a danger to the community.  Walker based her ruling on his ready access to false identity documents and credit cards, his use of aliases, and his extensive criminal history. 

“The Secret Service will continue to collaborate with our law enforcement partners to aggressively target and arrest individuals who commit financial crimes,” said Reginald G. Moore, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service, Atlanta Field Office.

Flenaugh’s companion was arrested by APD at the airport and charged with state credit card fraud crimes.  She remains in state custody.

The indictment charges Flenaugh with one count of conspiracy to possess 15 or more counterfeit or unauthorized access devices, one count of possession of 15 or more counterfeit or unauthorized access devices, and nine counts of aggravated identity theft.  The conspiracy charge carries of maximum sentence of 5 years in federal prison, the possession charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison, and each of the aggravated identity theft charges carries a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in federal prison, at least one count of which is required to be imposed consecutive to any sentence imposed on the underlying charges.  Each of the charges also authorizes a fine of up to $250,000 per count.  In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.

This case is being investigated by Special Agents of the United States Secret Service.

Assistant United States Attorney David M. Chaiken is prosecuting the case.

Members of the public are reminded that the indictment contains only allegations.  A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government's burden to prove a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.                        

Updated April 8, 2015