HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — An alleged Mid-South fraud ring is now out of business thanks to good police work involving the 18th Judicial Drug Task Force (JDTF).
During the bust, interdiction agents found $25,000 on the suspects as well as more than a dozen identification cards with real victims’ names and stolen personal information.
It’s not yet known how the gang got the data from the unsuspecting 19 victims, but that information was then allegedly used at local banks to withdraw cash from the victims’ bank accounts.
It all began on Jan. 9 when an interdiction agent with the 18th JDTF pulled over a Chevy Malibu for a traffic offense.
Michael Williams, 23, was driving and Steven Clark, 58, was in the passenger seat. The two men are from Ohio.
During the stop, the agent found a printer and blank identification cards.
The 23-year-old told the agent he was on vacation and the printer and cards were with him because he uses the items in his janitorial business.
The agent sensed that something was fishy, but he doesn’t have enough evidence, so he cut the two men loose with a warning.
The very next day, the same agent, by chance, stopped a Dodge Durango with Ohio tags.
When the officer got to the window, he was shocked to see Steven Clark and Michael Williams in the back seat. These were the same Ohio men he pulled over the day before on I-65.
Agent: “What are you doing? What are the chances I see you two days in a row? Crazy!”
Behind the wheel was 24-year-old Jerria White, while 26-year-old Demetrius Mackey was in the passenger seat.
Police say Mackey had warrants for his arrest out of Ohio for telecommunications fraud, robbery and acts of violence.
A search of Jerria White turned up $12,000.
A search of Michael Williams yielded thousands more, as well as a fake ID with 58-year-old Steven Clark’s picture.
In fact, agents found more than a dozen realistic-looking IDs in the vehicle from Michigan, Florida and Ohio.
The identifications all had Clark’s picture, but each card had a different name and personal information for someone else — a real victim whose personal data had somehow been stolen.
Police are still not clear on how the information was obtained. The JDTF agent says it could be done with a skimming device on a gas pump or many other ways.
Then, according to the agent, using the computer and printer, the gang would transfer that data onto the blank cards.
With the ID cards, the gang would then allegedly go to each victim’s bank and withdraw cash from the victim’s bank accounts.
Agents are still unclear about how the gang knows which banking institutions the victims do business with.
Agents showed News 2 examples of bank receipts. One of the notes was torn, but it was a withdrawal for $5,000 from one of the victim’s accounts.
Agents caught them with $25,000 but say the operation is much much bigger:
“I would expect in the hundreds of thousands if not close to a million,” one agent told News 2.
The four are all in the Sumner County Jail, charged with identity theft and criminal simulation. There are also outstanding warrants out of Ohio for Steven Clark and Demetrius Mackey.
So far, 19 victims have been identified, including a lawyer and a police officer.
Agents urge everyone to monitor their credit and bank accounts, and if you feel you have been targeted by the gang, contact the 18th JDTF located in Sumner County.