Fla. Arrests Four for Identity Theft, Racketeering; Final Tally Could Surpass $1 Million

April 5, 2004

Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist and Kissimmee Police Chief Mark Weimer announced the arrests of four individuals following an investigation into an identity theft ring.

Michael Townsend and Gregory Gaffney, both of Kissimmee, Karen Looney of Davenport and Eugenia Kennedy of Altamonte Springs are charged with racketeering, criminal use of personal identifying information and grand theft. The four are charged with responsibility for the theft of approximately $100,000, but the total attributed to the ring could exceed $1 million.

“This is a significant event in the ongoing battle against identity theft,” said Crist. “Law-abiding Floridians have had their private information stolen in order to finance an economic joyride for thieves. Our work with the Legislature to pass a tougher identity theft law in 2003 is about to pay off as the upcoming prosecution of this case is guided in part by that statute.”

The investigation begin last September and concentrated on a ring operating throughout Central Florida. The investigation revealed that the identities of numerous individuals were stolen, leading to substantial fraud against at least seven merchants and financial institutions. These were especially large merchants that conduct business across the country.

Some of the methods used by the ring reportedly included taking mail from dumpsters behind post offices that would include credit card checks and bank checks. The ring then created fake identifications to match the checks, using these IDs throughout the region to purchase goods and merchandise.

The new law targeting identity theft makes it a second-degree felony if $5,000 is stolen through identity theft or the identities of at least 10 individuals are stolen. A minimum prison sentence of three years is applied upon conviction. Individuals will be charged with a first-degree felony if the theft amounts to $50,000 to $100,000 against one person or the identities of at least 20 individuals are stolen. A five-year mandatory prison sentence applies. Those stealing $100,000 or more from one person or the identities of at least 30 individuals are subject to a mandatory 10-year prison sentence. All four individuals are charged with second-degree felonies.

Townsend and Gaffney are being held on $500,000 bond, while Looney and Kennedy are being held on $100,000 bond. The case will be handled by the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.

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