Traveled From Florida to Maryland to Break into Cars and Commit Bank Fraud and Identity Theft in Columbia, Millersville, and Edgewater
Baltimore,Maryland – The final defendant in the federal indictments charging 14 Florida residents with a bank fraud conspiracy involving over $1 million in losses pleaded guilty today. Kevin Williams, age 43, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, pleaded guilty to federal charges of bank fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft. Williams was a member of the nationwide group of fraudsters known to law enforcement as the “Felony Lane Gang,” whose members traveled from Florida to Maryland and other states, broke into vehicles parked at recreation areas, sports fields, gyms, fitness centers, and other locations, and stole wallets, purses and other items left in the vehicles. Williams and his co-defendants used the victims’ stolen checks, credit cards and identifications to conduct fraudulent financial transactions.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Assistant Special Agent in Charge Daniel Kurz of the United States Secret Service – Baltimore Field Office; Chief Darryl McSwain of the Maryland National Capital Park Police, Montgomery County Division; Chief Stanley Johnson of the Maryland National Capital Park Police, Prince George’s County Division; Chief Gary Gardner of the Howard County Police Department; Chief Terrence B. Sheridan of the Baltimore County Police Department; and Anne Arundel County Police Chief Tim Altomare.
According to his guilty plea and other court documents, from September 2012 through July 2015, Williams is part of an organized group out of Florida who travel around the United States committing check fraud. Traveling groups generally consisted of two to four managers and one to six “strikers” (sometimes called “faces”) or persons who passed the fraudulent and stolen checks. Williams and his co-conspirators recruited prostitutes, drug addicts and other vulnerable individuals as faces to travel with them to conduct financial transactions using the stolen checks, driver’s licenses and other materials, and paid them with drugs, food, and small amounts of cash amounting to a fraction of the total value of the checks they cashed. They traveled in rental cars and stayed in hotels, sometimes paying for the rental cars and hotel rooms using victims’ identities and credit cards.
The managers, including Williams, went to locations where individuals often leave their belongings in their car—such as gyms, parks, and athletic fields—and broke into vehicles and stole wallets and purses for the identifications, credit cards, and check books—collectively called “paper.” Other items were usually discarded. The “paper” was provided to the strikers, along with glasses and wigs to allow them to resemble the individuals pictured in the stolen forms of identification. These co-conspirators, generally in teams of a driver and a passenger posing as the victim, traveled to banks to cash the checks stolen from victims. The managers were either in another car parked nearby so they could watch the transaction and look out for police, or they were crouched down behind the front seat.
As detailed in his plea agreement, Williams managed a crew and often coordinated crews who were in the same area at the same time. He both obtained the “paper” that was later distributed to strikers so that fraudulent checks could be cashed, and traded “paper” between crews as they came and went in a particular area. Williams assisted co-conspirators in cashing checks using the names and identifying information of the victims at banks in Maryland, including in Columbia, Millersville, and Edgewater.
According to their indictments and other court documents, the conspirators traveled throughout Maryland and other states conducting these thefts and financial transactions in one location for several days or weeks until the banks or law enforcement began thwarting their activities. Then they returned to Florida or moved on to another location, burying or hiding for future use the checks, credit cards, identification cards and other items they had stolen from vehicles, but had not yet used. A few weeks or months later, after scrutiny of their activities had faded, the defendants would return to Maryland, retrieve the hidden items, and use them to continue their financial fraud scheme.
As part of his plea agreement, Williams will be required to pay restitution in the full amount of the loss, which the government contends is no greater than $550,000. The full amount of the loss will be determined at sentencing.
Williams faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison for bank fraud conspiracy and a mandatory two years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence imposed, for aggravated identity theft. U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander has scheduled sentencing for January15, 2019, at 10:00 a.m.
The following 13 defendants have all pleaded guilty in a related case and nine were sentenced to between time served and 54 months in federal prison:
Theodore L. Pittman, a/k/a Teddy, Tony, and Bear, age 32, of Lauderhill, Florida;
Courtney B. Walker, a/k/a Wayne Leo Walker, age 28, of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida;
James J. Blakey, a/k/a Jamal, age 29, of Ft. Lauderdale;
Vincent Lee Sands, a/k/a Young SP, and Chad, age 26, of Lauderhill;
Tara Kathleen Whyte, age 29, of Hollywood, Florida, and Gambrills, Maryland;
Tracy Lee Whyte, a/k/a Nikki, age 34, also of Hollywood and Gambrills;
Heather Brooke Roberts, age 45, of Perry, Ohio;
Michael J. Walker, age 44, of Pompano Beach, Florida, and Perry, Ohio;
Shannon Elise Isley, age 29, of Sunrise, Florida;
Lauren Anne Bole, age 28, of Miramar, Florida;
Felicia Kaye Waybright, a/k/a Felicia Kaye Phillips, age 25, of Daytona Beach, Florida;
Ronald Jason Rhoda, a/k/a Jason Rhoda, age 43, of Hollywood, Florida; and
Amie Nicole Carter, age 32, of Casselberry, Florida.
Heather Roberts and Michael Walker are scheduled to be sentence on November 2, 2018 at 2:00 and 3:00 p.m., respectively. Sentencing has not yet been scheduled for Pittman and Rhoda.
The Maryland Identity Theft Working Group has been working since 2006 to foster cooperation among local, state, federal, and institutional fraud investigators and to promote effective prosecution of identity theft schemes by both state and federal prosecutors. This case, as well as other cases brought by members of the Working Group, demonstrates the commitment of law enforcement agencies to work with financial institutions and businesses to address identity fraud, identify those who compromise personal identity information, and protect citizens from identity theft.
United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the U.S. Secret Service, Maryland National Capital Park Police – Montgomery and Prince George’s County Divisions, and the Howard County, Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County Police Departments for their work in the Maryland portion of this multi-state, multi-agency investigation. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tamera L. Fine and Ayn B. Ducao, who are prosecuting the case.