Government ID Theft Ringleader Gets 12 Years in Prison

Jenaro Blalock, 31, of Clinton, Md., pleaded guilty on Oct. 29, 2013, to access device fraud and aggravated identity theft and was sentenced by United States District Judge Claude M. Hilton. The gang caused victim losses of between $1 million and $2.5 million; Blalock was also ordered to pay full restitution to victims.

According to court documents, between June 2011 and July 2013, Blalock and co-leader Christopher Bush recruited women with access to identity information through their employers to steal more than 600 identities, primarily belonging to employees of the US Department of State, the US Department of Defense and the US Agency for International Development.

Blalock provided blank driver’s licenses so that Bush could make fraudulent driver’s licenses bearing the victims’ real names, addresses and dates of birth. Blalock also made fraudulent credit cards bearing victims’ names. Members of the identity theft ring, including Blalock, then used those fraudulent driver’s licenses and victims’ social security numbers to open instant credit lines at retailers and obtain rental cars, which were frequently sold on the black market with altered vehicle identification numbers.

On Jan. 17, 2014, Bush was sentenced to serve 10 years in prison for his role in the scheme.

The news comes as the IRS is warning that ID theft has been spiking. 

“At the end of the day there is certainly more risk today for identity theft and personal information misuse and abuse,” said Mark Steber, chief tax officer at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, in a blog at Huffington Post. “However there is also increased help out there, but to start you need to invest the time and focus to protect yourself. Do not provide your personal and/or bank account information, or make a payment when contacted by phone or email without first verifying the request independently. Be mindful of where you use your credit/debit cards, and keep track of everything in your wallet, so you can report it right away if lost or stolen.”

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