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Eight Texans charged in identity theft ring

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Eight individuals have been charged with running a complex identity theft ring, announced Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Prerak Shah.

A federal grand jury indicted Samson Kidane Asres (47, of Dallas), Brandon Michael Bay (34, of Dallas), Stephen Robert Adams (59, of Dallas), Todd Stuart Breitling (57, of Dallas), Christopher William Feil (40, of Garland), William Ernest Hartshorn (43, of Richardson), Breanna Wellborn (38, of Garland), and Jeffrey Wilcox (46, of Dallas) on identity theft crimes in December. Their court documents were unsealed recently.

The lead defendant, Mr. Asres, was arrested in late January and faces one count of conspiracy to commit identity theft, six counts of aid and abetting fraud in connection with identification documents, and aggravated identity theft.

According to the indictment, Mr. Asres allegedly obtained or purchased personally identifying information and then gained access to credit report information of victims from credit agencies.

Using the victims’ personal information, Mr. Asres allegedly paid coconspirators an agreed sum of money to purchase cell phones and other high-end items. He would then sell the items and use the proceeds to continue to fund his unlawful scheme.

The purchasers were provided with a fraudulent Texas driver license which included the image of the coconspirator but the personal identifying information of an unknowing victim.  Purchasers were also given false utility bills and other pertinent information from the victims’ credit report that would enable them to answer security questions on the credit check to qualify for large lines of credit at retail stores.

The coconspirators would allegedly then visit retail stores to purchase to cell phones, cell phone accessories, wireless speakers, watches, clothing, and other items.  The coconspirators were able to use the false identification and victim’s identifying information to qualify for lines of credit and purchase items with a nominal down payment.

The conspiracy caused the loss of approximately $500,000.

An indictment is merely an allegation of criminal conduct, not evidence. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.  If convicted, Mr. Asres faces up to 47 years in federal prison.  Codefendants each face sentences ranging from 5 to 45 years.

This case was investigated by the Euless PD and the United States Postal Inspection Service with the assistance of the Department Of Public Safety CID, United States Secret Service, Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office,  Rowlett PD, North Richland Hills PD,  Carrollton PD, Richardson PD, Coppell PD, Plano PD, Allen PD, Frisco PD, The Colony PD, Sherman PD, Dallas PD, Fort Worth PD, Hurst PD, Colleyville PD, Terrell PD, Burleson PD, Little Elm PD, Johnson County Sherriff’ Office, Wise County Sheriff’s Office, and Texas Attorney General’s Office Fugitive Unit.  A special thanks to industry partners including Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Kohl’s, 7-11, Neiman Marcus, Ulta, Zale’s, and UHaul.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nicole Dana and Kenneth Coffin are prosecuting the case.

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