ID Theft, Fraud Case Leads Okla. AG to Ask for Statute Change

December 21, 2006

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson’s office will propose legislation to expand his Consumer Protection Unit’s prosecutorial authority. In a release, Edmondson said a case he recently filed, which concerns identity theft and fraud, highlights the need for the new law.

The AG’s office reported that five Oklahomans were charged after an investigation found the men were using credit card numbers falsely retrieved from hotel guests to fraudulently purchase more than $12,000 in merchandise.

The charges, filed in Oklahoma County District Court, accuse Daniel Lee Lavender, 24, of one count of attempting to obtain property by trick or deception; Scott C. Cameron, 42, one felony count of obtaining property by trick or deception; Allen Dell Wooden, 36, two felony counts of obtaining property by trick or deception; Ryan Anthony Anderson, 26, two felony counts and one misdemeanor count of obtaining property by trick or deception and Forrest C. Kennedy, 56, three felony counts and one misdemeanor count of obtaining property by trick or deception.

All five men allegedly participated in a scheme to steal credit card information from Oklahoma City hotels and then use that information to purchase and obtain merchandise ranging from tools to frozen drink machines.

“We are not sure at this time exactly how they got the credit card information from the hotels,” Edmondson said. “It looks at this point that the scheme may have been as simple as distracting hotel clerks and taking their printed guest lists. That part of the investigation is ongoing.”

The scheme came to light when businesses where the stolen cards were used became suspicious and reported the activity to authorities.

The charges were filed by the Oklahoma attorney general’s office and the Oklahoma County district attorney’s office. Edmondson said the charges had to be filed jointly, because current state law does not allow the attorney general the authority to prosecute crimes such as attempting to obtain property by trick or deception.

“The attorney general can only prosecute consumer crimes as specified in the Consumer Protection Act,” Edmondson said. “We’ve always overcome this obstacle by jointly filing the cases with the district attorney. While this sounds like a formality, it does place another burden on an already overworked DA staff. To solve this problem, we will seek a revision in the law to allow this office to file these cases.

“Revising the law will expand our consumer crimes jurisdiction and allow us to prosecute identity theft, deceptive advertising, consumer-related computer crimes and credit and debit card fraud,” Edmondson said. “Our Consumer Protection Unit is specially trained in these types of cases, and we believe this change will help us better protect Oklahomans from frauds and scams.”

Edmondson said Sen. Randy Bass will carry the legislation which is still in the drafting stage.

“The legislation will put another arrow in the attorney general’s quiver,” said Bass. “Expanding the specific crimes the attorney general can prosecute is good public policy, good law enforcement strategy and good for consumers.”

Edmondson thanked investigators from the Oklahoma City Police Department, the Midwest City Police Department and Oklahoma’s ID Theft Task Force.

“It takes a collaborative effort to track down identity thieves,” Edmondson said. “These criminals cross from one jurisdiction to the next and back again, so without a coordinated prosecution, it’s almost impossible to bring them to justice. All the investigators that worked on this case are to be commended for their commitment to justice.”

Source: Oklahoma AG’s Office

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