Florida Highway Patrol Bureau of Investigations Lieutenant Gene Spaulding, along with other federal, state and local law enforcement officers, recently arrested two Jacksonville men and a Ft. Lauderdale woman involved in a large scale identity theft ring.
The investigation was a joint effort conducted by the US Secret Service Northeast Florida High Technology Crimes Task Force and includes Investigators/Special Agents from the Florida Highway Patrol, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, US Postal Inspector’s Office, Social Security Administration, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Clay County Sheriff’s Office, US Attorney’s Office, and Statewide Prosecutor’s Office.
The investigation was ongoing for over seven months and has identified over $75,000 in losses, which occurred from June 1999 through January 2002. The fraudulent activity took place in Duval, Clay, St. Johns, Broward, Lee and Osceola Counties in Florida. The identity of at least 33 victims throughout the United States was stolen and used to establish fraudulent credit accounts at various retail stores and credit card companies.
The suspects; Charles Ruben Johnson, age 41 of Jacksonville, James Edward Smith, age 28 of Jacksonville, and Delores Janet Brown, age 38 of Ft. Lauderdale, are charged with a total of 37 felony counts including violations of state racketeering laws, conspiracy, criminal use of personal information, grand theft, possession of fraudulent driver’s license/ID card and uttering worthless/counterfeit checks. The charges establish that they were an organized group that stole the personal information, including social security numbers and dates of birth, from victims with similar names as theirs and then used the information to open fraudulent credit accounts at different retail stores and credit card companies. The suspects would then purchase merchandise, which usually consisted of electronic equipment, jewelry, and gift cards that would be sold or pawned at reduced prices.
Due to the complex nature of the case and the various judicial circuits where the crimes were committed, the Office of Statewide Prosecution is prosecuting the case. The suspects have only been charged at this time and are awaiting prosecution in Duval County, Florida.