April 7, 2006
Bolivar, Mo. — Two individuals from Georgia and Florida who allegedly stole the identity of a Bolivar woman and used the information to purchase more than $3,000 worth of computer equipment online have been charged with one criminal count each of identity theft filed in Missouri.
The felony charges against Diana E. Johnson (DOB-8/15/68) of Savannah, Ga. and Shante Berry (DOB- 1/22/80) of Miami, Fl. were filed jointly by Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon and Polk County Acting Prosecuting Attorney Ken Ashlock. The investigation into the alleged identity theft operation also involved the Savannah-Chatham, Ga. Metropolitan Police Department, Miami Police Department and U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
In November 2004, the alleged victim in Bolivar was contacted by a computer retailer advising her that someone had used her personal information to order more than $3,000 in merchandise from the company Web. Three digital cameras worth $3,637 were purchased and charged to the victim's account, which was opened using the victim's name, social security number and date of birth without her consent.
Investigators from the Attorney General's Office looking into an alleged identity theft learned that packages were being shipped to a residence in Savannah frequented by Johnson. Johnson allegedly would have the merchandise that was purchased online using other people's identities shipped to this house where she would pick it up, and then re-ship the merchandise to Berry in south Florida.
"We can't emphasize enough how much of a growing problem identity theft is for law enforcement, and how going after the perpetrators of such crimes can be complex and difficult," Nixon said. "The details of this case prove that, in this advanced technological age we live in, identity thieves from one end of the country can harm someone on the other end with the click of a mouse. These charges should send a clear warning that not even state lines will prevent us from bringing identity thieves to justice."
Identity theft which results in the theft or appropriation of credit, money, goods, services or other property exceeding $500 and not exceeding $5,000 is a class C felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison upon conviction and a $5,000 fine. The sentencing court also may order a convicted defendant to pay restitution to any victims. Those found guilty of identity theft also may be civilly liable to their victims for up to $5,000 for each incident, or three times the amount of actual damages, whichever is greater.
The charges against defendants Johnson and Berry are merely accusations; as in all criminal cases, the defendant is presumed innocent until or unless proven guilty in a court of law.
Nixon reminded Missourians that they can reduce the possibility of identity theft by following several precautions: