Florida police and federal authorities say they have broken up an apparent identity theft operation after being tipped off by an unlikely source.
The Sun-Sentinel reports it was a confessed home burglar who told Lauderhill police that there appeared to be a large fraud operation being conducted from a local home.
Police say they have now arrested the home’s occupants, Eric Jermaine Spivey, 27, and Chenequa Austin, 38. The pair are now facing five federal charges each of aggravated identity theft, fraud and conspiracy.
The burglar reportedly told police about the operation after he was arrested on Dec. 15, 2014, and admitted to breaking into the Lauderhill home. He said he thought there was evidence that the home’s occupants were manufacturing fake credit cards.
A police detective and a U.S. Secret Service agent reportedly visited the house two days later, ostensibly to investigate the burglary.
"Chenequa Austin brought me through the residence to identify the path of the burglar,” Secret Service Agent Jason Lanfersiek wrote in his report. “While inside the home, I immediately noticed, in plain view, numerous gift cards, debit cards, credit cards, and prepaid stored value cards readily apparent in various locations in the residence.”
Lanfersiek wrote he also noticed a card embossing machine, that can be used to manufacture credit cards, sitting in an open closet.
The authorities later got court approval to conduct a more thorough search and reportedly recovered 314 credit, gift and pre-paid debit cards as well as a machine for programming cards.
“Agents also discovered designer men's and women's clothing, jewelry, flat screen TVs, multiple Sony PlayStation 4s, and Apple iPads. Many of these items were in brand-new condition and still in original packaging,” read court documents submitted in the case.
Spivey is also facing a federal charge of possessing a firearm while a convicted felon because of a Glock 19 handgun found in the home.
Ballistic tests of that gun reportedly link to evidence in an attempted second-degree murder case filed against him in state court in Miami-Dade County in 2013.
Spivey’s court-appointed attorney, Michael Smith, said his client plans to contest all of his charges.
Austin has been released from jail on $35,000 bond. Spivey is being held without bond after a judge ruled he was a flight risk.
The case is one of at least four federal identity theft cases to come out of Lauderhill in less than a year.
The Sun-Sentinel reported last month that six people had been sentenced in a federal identity theft and tax fraud scheme that involved filing false tax refund claims.
That story followed a January report that federal prosecutors had secured convictions in a similar case against two other Lauderhill residents.
And in July of last year federal prosecutors acknowledged they had filed federal identity theft charges against Derek Denesevish, also of Lauderhill, alleging he had paid a Broward Clerk of Courts employee to use her position to steal information about drivers’ identities and that he was operating a tax fraud scheme.
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