Credit fraud ring busted

By ELIZABETH RICHARDSON erichardson@newnan.com Investigators with the Coweta County Sheriff's Office have busted an identity fraud ring that involves multiple victims stretching across multiple states and more than $100,000 in stolen money -- and additional arrests remain a possibility, according to authorities. Investigator Emory C. Mullis of the sheriff's office got involved when a Coweta County resident reported his credit card had more than $13,000 worth of unauthorized charges made between June 9 and July 9.
This fraud ring operated by stealing mail and buying credit card information from employees at restaurants and large home improvement chains such as Home Depot and Lowe's Home Improvement, according to the investigator. Mullis reached that conclusion based on interviews with suspects who have since been arrested in this case. Thus far, he's interviewed at least two suspects who've both said the same thing. "At this point, I don't know which Home Depots, Lowe's or restaurants are involved," said Mullis. The way the scheme works, according to Mullis, is a member of the fraud ring finds an employee of a business that is "down on their luck and willing to do business." The contact person then agrees to pay the employee anywhere from $20 to $50 for the first credit card number produced, then hundreds of dollars for subsequent card numbers once trust has been established. According to Mullis, the employee may even get paid more money for cards that are readily accepted everywhere, such as American Express, which could earn a fraud participant up to $300 a card. In the course of Mullis' local investigation, he determined that the Coweta victim's credit card had numerous charges originating from Kensington Station Apartments in Decatur. Mullis pulled Internet addresses from the online purchases made with the stolen card information, then he met with the apartment manager before obtaining warrants for Margaret Ann Freeman, 43, and her son, Infinite Shalek Glover, 22. Mullis has taken warrants on a third Kensington Station Apartment resident, 20-year-old Brittany Renee Clark. Freeman is charged with one count of identity fraud, and Glover is charged with four counts of ID fraud. Mullis interviewed Freeman and Glover and concluded that Freeman had acted as the "go to" person in the apartment complex who was charged with finding willing participants in the fraud ring. Once they were recruited, she would refer them to an Atlanta resident identified in a photo lineup by both Freeman and Glover as Sacarri Deshun Dodson -- a man with a criminal history in Atlanta for ID theft, according to Mullis. Also during the course of the investigation, Mullis noticed that many of the Coweta victim's fraudulent credit card purchases were shipped to two addresses in Fulton County. A member of the UPS fraud department verified who signed for the items. Mullis concluded from that information that members of Dodson's family may be involved in the ring as well. On July 29, members of the sheriff's office's Criminal Investigation Division along with the Atlanta Police Department and Detective P. Cooper of Atlanta's fraud unit all jointly executed search warrants at three Atlanta addresses -- 575 Elmwood Road, 550 Elmwood Road and 425 Lainer Street NW, according to Mullis. Dodson was spotted on July 29 walking away from one of the suspect residences. Police found somebody's checkbook on him along with Social Security cards. He was arrested by the Atlanta Police Department and charged with five counts of ID fraud. Additional charges are pending. Prior to the arrest, investigators had also realized that Dodson was operating under the identity of a New York resident, according to Mullis. Investigators came away from the search warrants with evidence of identity fraud and financial transaction card fraud. They even discovered that members of the fraud ring were creating powers of attorney with their own professional seal so they could purchase cars. Police found driver's licenses from Florida, Mississippi and North Carolina along with Social Security cards. The evidence suggested the fraud ring has been going on since at least 2005 -- and Mullis was told during a suspect interview that it's gone on for at least five years. According to Mullis, this was an elaborate scheme that he believes involves members of the same family. For proof that it was far-reaching, Mullis says you need only look at the fact that one victim is from the Bronx, NY, and that driver's licenses from Mississippi and Florida ended up in Fulton County. Mullis warns the public to keep a close eye on their credit reports, credit card statements and even their mail, because ID thieves frequently change a victim's mailing address. Also, a person can never be too careful when dining at a restaurant where the server takes the patron's credit card away from the table. Mullis says vigilance and being proactive is the key to avoiding becoming the victim of identity fraud. As for this fraud ring, Mullis hopes the case isn't yet closed. "I can hope that there will be additional arrests [in other jurisdictions]," said Mullis.

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