ROBERTSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – A traffic stop initiated by the 18th Judicial Drug Task Force lead to a major multi-state investigation that involved identity theft, tax fraud, and even a homicide.
It all began around 8:45 a.m. on July 26. That’s when a proactive interdiction agent with the judicial drug task force stopped an Audi on I-65 North near mile marker 104 for illegal window tint.
According to the interdiction agent, as soon as he stopped the car, the driver, identified as 23-year-old Jlon Johnson, and his girlfriend switched seats.
“So when I approach the front passenger window, Jlon is actually sitting in the passenger seat,” the agent said.
A records check showed Johnson was wanted for crimes in multiple states, including drug charges out of Knox County.
A search of the car revealed 17 Nintendo Switch gaming systems valued around $5,000, as well as four iPads.
“So I immediately thought it was a grab and go or retail theft organization, but then ultimately discovered they are part of a much bigger fraud or theft ring,” the agent said.
The investigation got much bigger once agents obtained a search warrant and searched Johnson’s phone.
“They are stealing people’s identities and cloning credit cards and then using those credit cards to purchase these items fraudulently,” the agent said.
According to investigators, Johnson was connected to a multi-state crime syndicate that reportedly stole people’s personal information to create fake credit cards and collect on IRS tax refund checks.
“Ended up reaching out to the IRS and they are going to investigate Jlon, as well as the organization for the tax fraud of this,” the agent said.
Agents told News 2, members of the crime syndicate pretend to be delivery drivers for Spark and use fake IDs.
Agents said syndicate members then went to major retailers like Walmart and picked up dozens of pieces of electronics, like those in Johnson’s car, paying for those items using fake credit cards.
“And then pretending to be the Spark delivery driver and walking in and picking up the items and leaving, and nobody ever knows anything until it’s too late and they are already out of the store,” the agent said.
A few days after the traffic stop, agents reported that investigators with the Michigan State Police (MSP) inquired about the Johnson traffic stop, indicating that he was a suspect in a Michigan homicide.
MSP told agents the information on Johnson’s cell phone and GPS data could be very beneficial to the Michigan case.
Johnson is currently in the Knox County Jail on the drug charges, while Michigan, the IRS, and other agencies further investigate.
“You never know what you will get from a traffic stop, as long as you are proactive going after bad guys,” an agent told News 2.