Interstate Identity Theft Ringleader Sentenced to Almost 10 Years in Federal Prison
|U.S. Attorney’s Office January 31, 2013|
GRAND RAPIDS, MI—Marcus Montell Thames, 32, of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, was sentenced to serve nine years and seven months in federal prison for his leading role in an interstate identity theft conspiracy that was based out of Florida, but whose members traveled throughout the Southeast and Upper Midwest committing bank fraud and identity theft during 2010 and 2011. The scheme involved eight charged defendants, all of whom have since been convicted of felonies including conspiracy to commit identity theft and bank fraud; bank fraud; and aggravated identity theft.
The scheme involved the defendants, travelling in teams controlled by Thames, going to locations such as gyms, daycare centers, and other places where they hoped to find purses that had been left in vehicles. After breaking into the vehicles and stealing purses to obtain check books, driver licenses, and other means of identification, the defendants would then forge high, face-value checks from one victim’s bank account made payable to another victim and then travel to branches of the payee victim’s bank that had drive-through teller lanes. There, female fraud-team members wearing basic disguises would cash the forged checks from the lane farthest from the teller window, presenting that victim’s stolen means of identification as proof of identity. The fast-moving and wide-ranging scheme, dubbed “Felony Lane” by the law-enforcement agencies that investigated it, victimized significant numbers of private citizens and federally-insured financial institutions in states that included Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan.
The investigation of Thames and his accomplices began with a February 2011 arrest by the Blackmon Township Police Department of defendant Wendy S. Bailey, 44, of Saginaw, Michigan, after she attempted to cash a forged check while on a trip with Thames and others. After initial investigation by Blackmon Township developed evidence that Bailey was part of an interstate fraud ring, the Lansing Resident Agency of the FBI joined the investigation. From there, the investigation grew to include participation by the Meridian Township Police Department, the Michigan State Police, and numerous other law-enforcement agencies in communities outside of Michigan through which the fraud teams had passed.
The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge Janet T. Neff, who commented on the seriousness of identity theft in general, and on the aggravated character of this scheme in particular given its geographic reach, the number of victims over time, and the financial and psychic harms it caused.
Other defendants received the following sentences: Peter P. Simone, 50, of Davie, Florida, who was convicted following a jury trial in October 2011, received a sentence of six years in prison; Jarod L. Jackson, 29, of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, was sentenced to 41 months in prison; Lucious L. Felder, 23, of Ft. Lauderdale, was sentenced to 30 months in prison; Carlton L. Brown, 24, of Ft. Lauderdale, was sentenced to 18 months in prison; Kimberly L, Kirkby, 52, of Florence, Alabama, was sentenced to 12 months in prison; and Wendy S. Bailey, 44, of Saginaw, Michigan, received a sentence of time-served, or approximately three months. Erica S. Robinson, 29, of Smyrna, Georgia, is pending sentencing on February 19, 2013. She is presently in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. All of the sentences were imposed by U.S. District Judge Neff, who also presided over the Simone trial.
Commenting on the sentences, U.S. Attorney Patrick A. Miles, Jr. stated, “Identity theft is a particularly pernicious form of property crime because it involves more than simply stealing money, it involves stealing the peace of mind of victims and, sometimes, harming their reputations and their credit-worthiness. For that reason, my office will continue to aggressively pursue identity thieves—particularly those who mistakenly believe that they can escape accountability if they just keep moving quickly enough from county to county or from state to state.”
Robert D. Foley, III, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Detroit Division, stated, “Those individuals who engage in identity theft and other crimes as part of a ring are robbing citizens of their money and their piece of mind. The FBI is committed to pursuing and prosecuting these criminals for these illegal acts.”
The Lansing Resident Agency of the FBI was the lead investigating agency in the case. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hagen W. Frank, who serves as the principal of the Identity Theft and Cybercrime Task-Force of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.