Archive for June, 2012

Vestavia Hills Police bust regional identity theft ring

Saturday, June 30th, 2012


Vestavia Hills police make a big bust. They’ve arrested four people from Florida accused of using forged checks and stolen credit cards across the Southeast.

On Tuesday, June 26, police say three men and a woman went to the Regions Bank on Highway 31 in Vestavia and tried to cash a check. The bank teller recognized the suspects from an internal memo sent to employees earlier this month.

The teller alerted authorities and the suspects were pulled over and arrested.

Working with other agencies, Vestavia police got a search warrant for a hotel room in the 5200 block of Messer Airport Highway. That’s where police found: 74 credit, debit, and gift cards; 27 forms of identification; 10 checkbooks; cash; drugs; and other stolen property belonging to people in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

Police believe the suspects are members of the “Felony Lane Gang,” a nationwide group known for breaking into cars and stealing people’s identities.

The suspects are Joel Jones, 25, of Miami; Amy Luongo, 31, of Pembrook Pines, FL; Azell Canty, 28, of Opa Locka, FL; and Temorris Campbell, 29, of Miami.

They’re all being held in the Jefferson County Jail charged with unlawful possession of a forged instrument. Bond for Jones, Canty, and Campbell is set at $300,000. Bond for Luongo is set at $345,000.

Vestavia Police say this investigation is ongoing and they expect more charges later.

Copyright 2012 WBRC. All rights reserved.

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Trio arrested for identity theft, burglary charges

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Three Mitchell residents were arrested Thursday on identity theft, drug and car burglary charges.

Daniel Orson Archambeau Jr., 31, was arrested and charged with possession methamphetamine, a felony, and possession of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor.

Nicholas Stephen Aungie Jr., 22, was charged with18 counts of identity theft, a felony, and three counts of unlawful entry of a motor vehicle, a misdemeanor.

Leah Rae Shields, 29, was charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia.

All three lived at 127 E. Second Ave. No. 6, in Mitchell.

According to police, Aungie allegedly entered three vehicles in Mitchell with the intent of stealing items inside.

He then allegedly used two debit cards and checks stolen from two of the vehicles to make approximately $780 in purchases at area businesses.

Aungie also allegedly made purchases with the stolen checks in Wagner. He also allegedly used keys stolen from one of the vehicles to commit other thefts.

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ID theft can take many forms, but victims can spend 300 hours clearing their name

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

TAMPA – The IRS estimates one third of the tax refund fraud takes place in Florida but it is not the only big-money rip-off involving identity theft.

Hillsborough County deputies made three arrests this month in connection with what they call ‘felony lane’ fraud.  Cpl. Bruce Crumpler, who heads up economic crimes, says one of the men was caught at a Brandon hotel with a plastic bag full of stolen drivers’ licenses, credit cards, social security cards and passports.  “They go and use that information at banks and try to cash checks to obtain what ever they can from the stolen item,” said Crumpler.

Victims like Barbara Banyak learned the painful way that being careful was not enough to shield against a crime that can take months, even years, to recover from.

The bad guys are getting their hands on our personal information in a multitude of ways from stealing mail and snatching purses to buying social security numbers.  While the IRS has begun cooperating with law enforcement and lawmakers are pledging to get new laws on the books to stem the tide of ID theft-based tax fraud, consumers can step up to prevent it.

1) File your tax return early
2) Ask doctors if they can take another ID number other than your Social Security Number.
3) Write “check ID” on the back of your credit card so retailers check for a picture ID.

We will be shredding your documents for free on Saturday June 30.  Visit for more information.

Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Financial heath of gym members at risk due to identity theft

Saturday, June 30th, 2012 is the inside source for everything local. We are powered by Examiners, the largest pool of passionate contributors in the world.

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Teens take risk of identity theft when they order fake IDs from China

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

A fake driver’s license made in China works as well as the real thing.

These IDs look perfect, they scan, and they have the correct holograms. Anyone with Google and the desire to drink can get one. They’re every underage drinker’s dream. But little do they know they may also be their worst nightmare.

When buyers submit personal information to China, they are sending it through a network of organized crime, putting their identity in the hands of some of the world’s most sophisticated criminals, officials warn.

But some teens in the Southeast Valley don’t see the problem if they can buy their friends alcohol, interviews show.

After hearing good reviews, one Arizona State University student, who asked not to be identified, got a couple of friends to join him on an order for IDs. Three weeks later, the IDs arrived inside the sole of a shoe, one of the methods used to get them past customs. Decks of cards, teacups and children’s toys are also popular stash spots.

Universities have become a prime target for fake-ID companies. The IDs have become popular across the nation, with batches intercepted by customs officials in San Francisco, Chicago and New York.

In a 2010 study, University of Missouri Professor Julia Martinez concluded that 32 percent of all undergraduate students would own and use a fake ID by the end of their sophomore years.

In 2011, the Tempe Police Department said, police seized 2,247 fake IDs in the downtown district alone, up 8 percent from the previous year.

The IDs’ sophistication means that more may be getting past doormen than are not. When tested at a popular Scottsdale bar, a fake ID scanned positively, meaning a barcode scanner verified the license as legitimate.

“To the naked eye, these look perfect,” said Andrew Lebowitz, a former bouncer at American Junkie in Scottsdale. “Anyone could get in with one of these.”

When the bouncers at five popular Scottsdale bars inspected the ID, they eventually found minor flaws, such as fuzzy printing and poor image quality, he said. However, inspections rarely get that far. “The truth is, on a busy Saturday night, no one would be suspicious about this ID. It’s that good,” Lebowitz said.

John Sileo, an identity-theft expert who has worked with the Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Defense, says an identity can be stolen with as little as a phone number. By using Google, Facebook and public records, a skilled hacker can eventually gather the information to access a Social Security number.

By filling out the ID order form, you’re just saving them the time.

“They’re giving you a fake ID in the process, but they are essentially buying your data,” Sileo said.

Janice Kephart, director of national-security policy at the Center for Immigration Studies, said there’s nothing more valuable than an American identity in the black market.

She said the ID company could be a front for a multimillion-dollar identity-theft ring. “Building a large database of young American identities is extremely valuable in the smuggling world,” she said.

Owen McShane, director of investigations at the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, headed an operation that traced fake ID websites back to organized-crime groups in China.

“Your information is marketable and they will sell it faster than you can imagine,” he said.

McShane said that when these websites first surfaced, China’s technology was defeating every security feature in U.S. drivers’ licenses. New York’s license was one of the most widely counterfeited.

New York has since added new technologies to its license, including a radio-frequency identification chip that verifies personal information for border officials.

It’s a technology China has yet to replicate. New York driver’s licenses are no longer available on the fake-ID website.

The latest technology is costly, McShane said, and some states cannot afford to improve their licenses. These states’ IDs, including Arizona’s, are still being produced in China.

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Piedmont Natural Gas Issues Alert About Bill-Payment Scam That May Expose …

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C., June 29, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ —
Piedmont Natural Gas

/quotes/zigman/238350/quotes/nls/pny PNY

is warning customers not to be fooled by a nationwide bill-payment scam that promises the federal government – in fact, President Obama himself – will pay their utility bill. The scam is asking people to share sensitive personal information that could lead to identity theft.

The phony payment offer, which is being promoted through social media, text messages and in person, provides customers with a purported “Federal Reserve bank routing number” to use when paying their bills online. Customers are led to believe that their bill will be paid if they use this routing number and insert their Social Security number as the bank account number however, no payments are ever applied to the customers’ accounts.

“Piedmont has learned that some of our customers have already fallen victim to this scam. We’re doing all we can to help those people affected, in addition to letting all our customers know that this scam is out there,” said Ranelle Warfield, vice president of customer service for Piedmont Natural Gas. “This is attempted identity theft, pure and simple, and we urge all Piedmont customers to exercise extreme caution in sharing their Social Security number or other personal information.”

Customers who believe they are a victim of this scam are encouraged to notify local police, the state attorney general’s office, and the Better Business Bureau. Any customer who thinks their Piedmont Natural Gas account has been affected should call 1-800-752-7504 to speak with a customer service representative.

About Piedmont Natural Gas

Piedmont Natural Gas is an energy services company primarily engaged in the distribution of natural gas to more than one million residential, commercial and industrial utility customers in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, including 53,000 customers served by municipalities who are wholesale customers. Our subsidiaries are invested in joint venture, energy-related businesses, including unregulated retail natural gas marketing, interstate natural gas storage and intrastate natural gas transportation. More information about Piedmont Natural Gas is available at .

SOURCE Piedmont Natural Gas

Copyright (C) 2012 PR Newswire. All rights reserved


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4 face healthcare fraud, identity theft charges

Friday, June 29th, 2012

McALLEN — Four people tied to a defunct Pharr durable medical equipment supplier face charges in a 22-count indictment that they tallied millions in fraudulent bills paid for medical equipment that on some occasions was supposedly delivered to patients who were dead. 

Arrested on Thursday were Marcello Herrera, 39, owner of RGV DME, his wife, Carla Cantu Herrera, 31, who served as marketing director, and former employees Ramon de la Garza, 51, and Beatriz Ramos, 27.

Charges filed in the case include one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, six counts of healthcare fraud, five counts of wire fraud and 10 counts of aggravated identity theft. The charges came in an indictment unsealed following the four defendants’ arrests Thursday morning, however that document had not been made available on the federal court’s online filing system Thursday afternoon. 

Federal prosecutors say Marcello Herrera submitted fake claims to Medicare and Texas Medicaid for power wheelchairs, incontinence supplies, hospital beds and mattresses, including other DME supplies. 

The indictment alleges that Carla Cantu Herrera, De La Garza and Ramos participated in the conspiracy, aiding Marcello Herrera by submitting fraudulent bills, wire fraud and identity theft of beneficiaries and doctors. 

Prosecutors say RGV DME submitted about 25,000 claims that totaled about $11 million to the state and federal healthcare programs and the government paid more than $7.1 million in reimbursements to the business. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of the billings were fraudulent, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson said in a statement issued Thursday. 

The indictment accuses the four defendants of making illegal payments to marketers, who obtained Medicare and Medicaid identification numbers and other information from beneficiaries that was used to submit fake bills to the government, prosecutors said. 

Most of the false billing reimbursed by the government was for wheelchairs, hospital beds and mattresses, incontinence supplies, prosecutors said.

The defendants billed for medical equipment never prescribed by doctors, never delivered to customers and in some cases, went to patients who had already died when the equipment was delivered, prosecutors said. 

To hide the scheme, the indictment accuses the four defendants of forging documents and using patients’ and doctors’ identities on the fake bills, prosecutors said. 

Herrera and his wife, de la Garza and Ramos all are expected to make an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Peter Ormsby in McAllen by Friday. 

The Rio Grande Valley — Hidalgo County in particular — has been a magnet for healthcare fraud cases in recent years. In February, former Weslaco durable medical equipment proprietor Juan De Leon was sentenced to 10 years in prison after he admitted to a similar scheme involving power wheelchairs and fraud.

And siblings Valente and Velma Alaniz, relatives of Palmview City Manager Johnn Valente Alaniz, each admitted in December 2011 to their own scheme involving billing the government for wheelchairs more expensive than those delivered to patients. Their case is set for sentencing in August. 

Wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 year in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count. The other charges carry a range of sentences between two and 10 years in prison, and a $250,000 fine on each count. 

Jared Taylor covers courts and general assignments for The Monitor. He can be reached at and (956) 683-4439. 

Follow Jared Taylor on Twitter: @jaredataylor


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Congress Probes Tax Prep Fraud and Identity Theft

Friday, June 29th, 2012

The House Judiciary Committee’s Crime Subcommittee held a hearing Thursday on the growing problem of identity theft and income tax preparation fraud.

Nina Olson

“The number of these thefts has increased by approximately 300 percent every year since 2008,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas. “The Internal Revenue Service detected almost 1 million fake returns among the 2010 returns alone. Tax thieves victimize innocent taxpayers in a number of ways. They often file fake returns under a false name or claim someone who is no longer alive as a dependent on their own forms.  Often, the fraud is not detected until an individual files a legitimate tax return that is rejected by the IRS because a false return has already been filed and the refund paid. Tax return identity theft is a very real problem. Congress should do all it can to protect citizens from this crime.”

Smith is one of the original co-sponsors of H.R. 4362, the “Stop Identity Theft Act of 2012,” with Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., a bipartisan bill that strengthens criminal penalties for tax return identity thieves.  H.R. 4362 adds tax return fraud to the list of predicate offenses for aggravated identity theft and expands the definition of an “identity theft victim” to include businesses and charitable organizations. It also improves coordination between the Justice Department and state and local law enforcement in order to better protect groups that are most vulnerable to tax fraud so they are not future victims. 


“The changes to federal law proposed by H.R. 4362 are important to keep pace with this ever-increasing crime,” said Smith. “Tax identity theft costs American families and taxpayers millions of dollars each year. We can help reduce the number of people who are victimized by this crime.”

Sanford Zinman, National Tax Policy Chair of the National Conference of CPA Practitioners, was among the witnesses at the hearing. He noted that the IRS’s Identity Protection Specialized Unit has documented a 280 percent increase in identity theft since 2010. Zinman is a sole practitioner in White Plains, N.Y., who has been preparing individual and small business tax returns, as well as sales tax and payroll tax returns, for over 35 years. 

“The real issue is what identity theft does to individuals and what can be done to combat the problem,” said Zinman. “It is reasonable to presume that every American has either been personally affected by identity theft or has known someone who has been a victim. This is a good definition of an epidemic. Identity theft can destroy a person’s life. It can prevent them from buying a house or a car, getting a credit card or even having a bank account. It can even hamper someone’s ability to get a job. The problem of identity theft will not go away.”

He noted that in January the IRS and the Justice Department engaged in a massive national sweep to crack down on suspected identity theft perpetrators as part of a stepped-up effort against refund fraud and identity theft. Working with the Justice Department’s Tax Division and local U.S. Attorneys’ offices, the nationwide effort targeted 105 people in 23 states.

“The Internal Revenue Service has, for many years, recognized the serious issue of identity theft and has instituted measures to combat identity theft and continues to do so,” Zinman added. “However, many of the IRS ‘fixes’ can be cumbersome and time consuming. Beginning in 2008 the IRS implemented Service-wide identity theft indicators which are placed on a taxpayer’s account if the taxpayer claimed they were a victim of identity theft. But these indicators are implemented only after the taxpayer contacts the Service with certain required substantiation documentation. The IRS can then issue an ‘Identity Protection PIN’ which allows the legitimate taxpayer’s return to bypass the identity theft filters. In mid-November 2011 selected taxpayers received an IP PIN Notice letter notifying them that they would be receiving an IP PIN for use when filing their 2011 return. In mid-December 2011 these taxpayers received a second letter with their IP PIN which was a single-use six-digit PIN. Some of these letters caused confusion when returns were filed partly because the program was so new. Some letters were lost, which caused problems with filing returns. Some taxpayers forgot to tell their preparers that they received a letter with an IP PIN. Since this was a limited program the negative impact was very limited. Obviously, better communication could result in better outcomes.”

Taxpayer Advocate Copes with Identity Theft Problems
National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson noted that she had discussed the problem of taxpayer identity theft in the report she released to Congress on Wednesday (see National Taxpayer Advocate Sees 2013 Filing Season ‘At Risk’). But her experiences with identity theft go back many years.

“My first of many experiences with identity theft occurred when I was the founder and executive director of The Community Tax Law Project, the first independent nonprofit low income taxpayer clinic in the country,” she said. “CTLP provides pro bono legal representation to low-income taxpayers throughout Virginia. In 1993, a legally resident agricultural worker came to CTLP with Internal Revenue Service assessments for additional tax purportedly attributable to unreported wages. My client and I spent the next four years proving to the IRS that it was impossible for him to be working and physically present at three different locations at the same instant. Because the identity thieves—several co-workers on one job from years before—continued to work under my client’s name and Social Security number, we had to prove each year to the IRS that my client did not earn the unreported income. At that time, the IRS did not have any system to flag my client’s account and avoid tormenting and burdening him each year. Somehow, the fact that my client was the victim did not make any impression on the IRS.”

Olson noted that her experiences as a tax lawyer representing clients in identity theft and other cases have served as a guide in her role as the National Taxpayer Advocate at the IRS. She acknowledged that the IRS has adopted many of her office’s recommendations to help victims of identity theft and refund fraud, but believes they need to go further.

“Certainly, refund-driven tax fraud is not a problem the IRS can fully solve, but I believe that the IRS can do much more to detect questionable returns and assist victims of identity theft or return preparer fraud,” she added.

Olson said the IRS should take steps to limit the opportunities for refund fraud, while not unreasonably delaying legitimate refund claims. But she noted that the IRS has been slow to develop procedures to assist victims of return preparer fraud. Olson recommended that the IRS should develop procedures to replace stolen direct deposit refunds, but she cautioned that creating new exceptions to taxpayer privacy protections poses risks and should be approached carefully, if at all.

Mo’ Money Taxes Fraud
Olson noted one high-profile investigation of a tax return preparation firm has resulted in many TAS cases. On March 14, 2012, the Illinois Attorney General’s office sued Mo’ Money Taxes, a tax preparation service and lender based in Memphis, Tenn. The suit accuses the company of filing unauthorized federal income tax returns and charging undisclosed and exorbitant fees for tax preparation services. The Attorney General alleged the returns were riddled with errors and the company failed to provide some customers with their promised refund checks, Olson noted. The Attorney General’s office contacted her office for assistance, and the Taxpayer Advocate Service agreed to take the following steps: provide information to alleged victims about seeking assistance from the IRS; ensure the IRS was aware that taxpayers would need assistance; and coordinate actions such as holds on collection activity on the taxpayers’ accounts.

To date, TAS has received 76 inquiries related to Mo’ Money issues, all of which resulted in new TAS cases. “We are able to provide some form of relief to the taxpayer in 56.6 percent of the closed cases,” said Olson.

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Identity theft support centre launched

Friday, June 29th, 2012


OTTAWA – Canada’s fastest growing crime may have bank robbers reconsidering their options.

Fraud researchers and police say identity theft – which can range from credit card misuse to more serious violations such as impersonating someone to take out a mortgage – has led to an increase of organized crime in Canada.

“What’s easier and what’s safer – sitting in a basement somewhere, with a computer, stealing somebody’s identity and all the funds out of their bank account or walking in with a gun into a bank?” said Kevin Scott, president of the Canadian Identity Theft Prevention Association. “This is obviously where a lot of criminals are migrating right now.”

Scott says children are now also becoming victims because some criminals manage to steal social insurance numbers from infants.

“This is really one of the issues that is starting to happen throughout North America,” he said.

To combat these problems, a new centre for identity theft victims was officially launched in Vancouver Thursday.

The Canadian Identity Theft Support Centre, funded by the feds and private partners, has been set up to help victims dealing with the fallout of identity theft. It has a help line – 1-866-436-5461 – and four employees who can provide step-by-step support on the phone.

The centre began its work back in April but it did not officially launch its operation until now.

Canada’s Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart applauds the move to open the operation but she says there are existing legislative gaps which continue to pose hurtles.

Stoddart says the passage of two key pieces of legislation – including an anti-spam bill – would help to reduce concerns.

The RCMP, which is also working to crack down on identity theft on the enforcement end, says it difficult to crack down on the crime once it is committed, especially due to technology.

“The people using that information, they can use it globally,” said Sgt. Luce Mormandin, the national identity fraud co-oridnator for the force. “The crime has become one without boundaries.”

The RCMP recommends tips for Canadians to protect themselves, including hiding banking PIN numbers, using a shredder to destroy personal documents, and not carrying SIN cards in wallets.

On Twitter: @kkirkup

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Identity Theft Suspect Nabbed $40K: Police

Friday, June 29th, 2012


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Police arrested a 26-year-old man on Wednesday morning for allegedly stealing $40,000 from members of a local fitness club.

Christopher Polley was charged with two counts of identity theft, possession of a controlled substance, possession of over ten personal profiles and theft-related charges. His bail has been set to $400,000.

Polley formerly worked at the Wave House Athletic Club in Mission Beach, where he is accused of stealing hundreds of membership applications and contracts.

At least 20 victims have been confirmed, and police say there are potentially many more. Most of the victims have lived, or currently live, in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego.

Police said Polley used the personal information on the applications to open up “Bill Me Later” credit accounts that were then used to make purchases online. The total loss is approximately $40,000 and will likely increase as more victims are identified.

Individuals who feel their personal identification has been compromised can call the San Diego Police Department Economic Crimes Unit at 619-446-1031.

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