BY ANDREW WIG – SUN NEWSPAPERS
A Brooklyn Park man was among four Twin Cities residents to plead guilty last week to roles in an identity theft ring that allegedly netted $2 million in 14 states.
Brooklyn Park resident Trey Jeremiah Powell, 18, pled guilty in federal court in St. Paul Wednesday, Aug. 1, to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Richfield resident Donyea Terrell Collins, 26, and Minneapolis residents Vinicia Andrell Williamson, 27, and Elston Edwards Sharps, 46, pled guilty to the same charges.
Collins was responsible for at least $58,000 in fraudulent transactions, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. He pled guilty to stealing information from his place of employment and forwarding it to co-conspirators, who used the data to create counterfeit checks and fake IDs.
Powell admitted to being responsible for at least $70,000 in fraudulent transactions involving counterfeit checks by recruiting people to conduct the transactions while providing them the stolen checks to do so.
Sharps admitted he was responsible for at least $43,000 in stolen funds by accessing bank accounts with the stolen information and opening fraudulent bank accounts. Williamson admitted to being responsible for the theft of at least $23,761 by accessing bank accounts with the fraudulent data.
The four pleading guilty to charges last week were among 21 conspirators who have already entered guilty pleas in the identity-theft ring, dating back to July 2011, according to the Department of Justice. Five other alleged conspirators have pled not guilty to charges including bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. They await trial, scheduled to begin Aug. 20.
The defendants face a maximum sentence of 30 years for each bank fraud charge and a mandatory minimum of two years for the identity-theft charges. Sentencing hearings have not yet been scheduled.
The Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force, U.S. Postal Service Inspection Service and the criminal investigations unit of the Internal Revenue Service investigated the case.
The IRS encourages people to review the Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft, found at irs.gov.