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Rip-Off Alert: Sophisticated ID theft ring upended

Reported by: Marie Mortera
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Updated: 9/02/2014 5:46 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV – It was a multimillion-dollar scheme involving identity theft and fraudulent checks. This Rip-Off Alert is the story of how it worked and how postal inspectors busted the operation.

The scam began with identity thieves gathering victims’ personal information, usually online. A search warrant was executed by postal inspectors in pursuit of a huge counterfeit check ring in the Midwest.

“We found blank checks, check printing programs, check stock, fraudulent identifiers, bank account numbers, different fraudulent IDs, as well as an assault rifle and another sidearm,” according to U.S. Postal Inspector Michael Van de Putte.

“They would send the information to Darnell Lanier to create the checks, and he would send them back.”

Inspectors discovered the fraudulent check ordering scam was well organized.

“They would order over Facebook, other social media, all in code,” Van de Putte said. “Send text messages ordering baked goods from each other.

”They would make the check in the name of one of the victims with that victim’s proper address in whatever state the identifiers came from and then use a fraudulent bank account number with a proper routing number from different banks,” he said. “They would then print up a fake and very high quality identification and go in and cash the checks that way.”

There were more than 100 victims and $250,000 in losses. Officials remind consumers that if they fear they are an identity theft victim, call the credit monitoring groups: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. They are required to give one free credit report to anyone every year.

Lanier, the ring leader, gave inspectors a full confession and assisted prosecutors in the case. He was sentenced to 5 years’ probation and to pay $10,000 in restitution.


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