- people on the move
Identity-theft ring ends at retailer
Eight people in an identity-theft ring that went on shopping sprees at a local retailer are going to jail — with the ringleader receiving 10.5 years in federal prison.
The investigation, which was conducted by the Grand Rapids office of the U.S. Secret Service, began in May 2012 after loss-prevention investigators at Meijer became aware that teams of identity thieves were visiting stores in the Grand Rapids and Lansing areas and purchasing high-value Meijer gift cards — with credit cards that had been re-encoded with account data from compromised credit card accounts.
The gift cards were then used to purchase a large number of expensive electronic devices, including iPads, iPhones and laptop computers.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Hagen W. Frank, who leads the U.S. Attorney’s Office identity-theft task force, prosecuted the case.
“Identity theft doesn’t just cause financial harm, it damages the hard-earned reputations of productive members of society,” said U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles, Jr. in Grand Rapids. “Identity thieves who think that West Michigan is fertile ground to commit this crime are making a serious mistake. These defendants learned that fact the hard way.”
Chief U.S. District Judge Paul L. Maloney sentenced Charles J. Finley, who was found to be the ringleader, this week to serve 10.5 years in federal prison for his crimes and ordered him to pay restitution of $95,489 to the victims of the crime.
The subsequent prosecution resulted in sentences for other people in the ring: Sharonique S. Pointer, 22, will serve 24 months; Mark A. Houston, Jr., 24, will serve 36 months; Donald D. Peterson, Jr., 26, will serve 33 months; Gary K. Smith-Brown, Jr., 27, will serve 36 months; Adrian R. Evans, 26, will serve 75 months; Dewain J. Clark, 29, will serve 24 months and Deaunte G. Finley, the last defendant to be arrested and convicted, will be sentenced on Jan. 13.
Each defendant was also ordered to pay restitution to the victims of the offenses.