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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Four members of an identity theft ring operating in at least three states have been sentenced to prison, announced William T. Stetzer, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
On Tuesday, May 25, 2021, U.S. District Judge Frank D. Whitney sentenced Dayton Louis Kolczak, 29, and Heather Westerfield, 37, both of Charlotte, to 71 months and 57 months in prison, respectively, and ordered each to serve three years under court supervision. Both Kolczak and Westerfield previously pleaded guilty to bank and wire fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft charges. Two other co-defendants, Kenneth D. Bennett-Rosario, 45, of Charlotte, and Jessica Bailey Sowell, 28, also of Charlotte, previously pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft. Bennett-Rosario was sentenced to 39 months in prison, and Sowell was ordered to serve 24 months for their role in the scheme.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, the ring operated in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and elsewhere, between October 2018 and September 2019. Court records show that Sowell and others in the ring obtained personal identification information (PII) of actual persons by various means, including stealing mail, over the internet, through real estate listings, and other public records. Kolczak made counterfeit North Carolina and South Carolina driver’s licenses in the victims’ names and PII but with photographs of the members of the ring.
According to court records, the co-conspirators used the counterfeit identification cards and stolen identities to obtain over $450,000 in fraudulent credit card accounts at retail store chains, such Lowe’s, Belk Department Stores, Kohl’s, and Target, to purchase or rent luxury vehicles, pay for rooms at various hotel chains, and to rent storage units, among other things. According to court records, in this manner, the co-conspirators used the stolen identities of at least 40 individuals. Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement seized printers, laptop computers, an embossing machine, a laminator, and other devices used to manufacture the fraudulent identification cards.
This case was the result of the investigative efforts of CMPD and the Secret Service. The CMPD and the Secret Service have established a fully integrated partnership to combat the most significant organized criminal groups operating in Charlotte. Through this partnership, this unit has successfully leveraged local and federal resources, personnel, expertise and authorities to identify and combat the criminals and criminal organizations that have the largest negative impact on the community.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael E. Savage, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, prosecuted the case.