Debt Collection Company Employee Sentenced To Four Years In Prison For Aggravated Identity Theft And Bank Fraud
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A debt collection company employee was sentenced yesterday to four years in prison for aggravated identity theft and bank fraud, involving a scheme to steal the personally identifiable information of local residents to obtain over $200,000 worth of new credit cards and a car loan, announced R. Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. In addition to the prison term imposed, U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr. ordered Justin Frank Pettway, 30, of Charlotte, to serve five years under court supervision and to pay $226,517 in restitution to four major banks defrauded by Pettway’s identity fraud scheme.
David M. McGinnis, Inspector in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and Chief Kerr Putney of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) join U.S. Attorney Murray in making today’s announcement.
According to the indictment, information contained in court filings, and court proceedings, from late 2015 to 2016, Pettway was employed by a South Carolina-based debt collection company. Through his employment, Pettway was able to use a national company’s Internet service that provides debt collection companies with computer and smartphone access to numerous public and proprietary databases containing individuals’ extensive personally identifiable information (PII). That information, which includes names, current and former residential addresses, social security numbers, dates of birth, telephone numbers and other historical and current information, is typically required to apply for new credit cards and loans.
Pettway unlawfully used the Internet service to input the residential addresses of local residents and steal their most current identity information. Pettway then used the stolen identity information to file fraudulent applications for loans and credit cards over the Internet and by telephone in the names of the identity theft victims.
Court documents show that once the defrauded banks notified Pettway that approved credit cards had been placed in the mail, Pettway drove to the identity theft victims’ residences, stole the issued credit cards from the victims’ mailboxes, and then used the credit cards until they were disabled by the banks. Typically, the identity theft victims did not learn of the new unauthorized credit cards issued in their names until they received subsequent credit card billing statements in the mail.
According to court records, Pettway charged $226,517 to the unauthorized credit cards to obtain cash from ATMs and goods and services from merchants. Pettway also purchased a Corvette from an out-of-state car dealer using a $58,000 car loan obtained in the name of an identity theft victim.
Pettway is currently in federal custody and will be transferred to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility. All federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.
In making today’s announcement, U.S. Attorney Murray thanked the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Charlotte and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department, and noted that the case is the result of the Charlotte Financial Crimes Task Force (CFCTF). The task force was formed in early 2016 by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and currently comprises over 25 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies located in the Western District of North Carolina. The goal of the taskforce is to focus on the identification and development of financial fraud investigations in the Charlotte area.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas O’Malley of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte prosecuted the case.