June 13, 2007
Jefferson City, Mo. — Seven people have been indicted on federal charges that they used stolen identity information from mid-Missourians in order to set up phone service to communicate with inmates at state corrections facilities. Among the alleged identity theft victims were mentally disabled and other residents of group homes in Jefferson City and Columbia, and Missourians whose information allegedly was stolen by employees of the state Department of Revenue. The fraud scheme resulted in more than $80,000 in telephone charges, the indictment alleges.
Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon and United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri John F. Wood announced the charges today. Wood’s office will handle prosecution of the charges; Nixon’s office initiated and handled much of the 18-month investigation, with assistance from inspectors for the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development - Office of Inspector General. The six women and one man indicted are:
All seven face one count of conspiracy to defraud; the Deardorffs also face four charges of identity theft. The indictment charges the defendants with using identity information, such as names and Social Security numbers, illegally obtained from residents of mid-Missouri to set up multiple accounts for cell phones and telephone service. Those phones and phone lines allegedly were then used so inmates at state corrections facilities in central Missouri could communicate with the defendants and others outside prison. The scheme allegedly took place from at least as early as January 2002 until Dec. 14, 2006.
Prisoners in the Missouri Department of Corrections are allowed to make calls while confined, but have to have a method to pay for the calls. Often this is done by making collect calls. The indictment alleges the defendants set up phone lines and ordered cell phones using the stolen identities so that inmates they knew could make the collect calls. Generally the fraudulently opened telephone services would continue until the telephone company canceled the service for non-payment, the indictment says.
“Identity thieves often use ‘inside information’ that can let them continue with their schemes for longer periods of time,” Nixon said. “This indictment was the culmination of 18 months of investigation, and the result of a cooperative effort between my office and our partners in the federal government. We will continue to work closely with federal law enforcement to stop identity theft and other crimes.”
Clayton Deardorff was incarcerated at various Missouri prisons, including Tipton Correctional Facility. He allegedly recruited his wife, Robin L. Deardorff, and others to steal identity information so he and others inside prison could make the collect calls. Robin worked at a Jefferson City nursing home operated by New Horizons Community Support Services Inc. She had access to identity information of residents of the home, which she allegedly stole to set up the phone lines and order cell phones. Robin Deardorff, who has a criminal background, was employed by the Missouri Department of Social Services, Family Support Division as of June 11.
Erica D. Kelley was an employee of the Missouri Department of Revenue, Motor Vehicle Bureau. In that position, she had access to identification of Motor Vehicle Bureau customers which she allegedly delivered to Robin Deardorff and others as part of the scheme.
Krystal G. Stephens was a part-time employee of the Missouri Department of Revenue, Division of Taxation and Collection and had access to identification information of division customers. She allegedly delivered that information to Robin Deardorff and others as part of the scheme.
Angie M. Roark was an employee of Sprint PCS at various times, where she had access to identity information of Sprint customers. Her position at Sprint and her knowledge of the company’s methods and operating procedures enabled her to assist the other conspirators in the scheme, the indictment alleges. In addition, she allegedly had landlines installed and cell phones delivered to her residence as part of the scheme.
Anna M. Stephens was an employee of United Telephone Co. (Sprint) at various times, where she had access to customers’ identification information and knowledge of the company’s methods and operating procedures. She allegedly used that information to assist the conspirators in their scheme, and also had phone lines installed and cell phones delivered to her residence.
Brenda McKay Adams allegedly used and allowed others to use her home address to have landlines installed and cell phones delivered, all of which had been ordered as part of the scheme.
Nixon said the first complaint about the alleged identity thefts came through a call to the Attorney General’s Identity Theft Hotline in December 2005. Nixon’s office launched an investigation that eventually entailed investigators from the Postal Service, because the scheme allegedly used the mail service to deliver the cell phones; and from HUD, because the scheme allegedly occurred in part on residences that were part of federal public housing.
Under federal law, conspiracy to commit fraud is punishable upon conviction by up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine on each count. Identity theft is punishable upon conviction by a federal prison term of no less than two years and no more than 15 years, as well as a $250,000 fine. The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and, as in all criminal cases, the defendants are presumed innocent until or unless proven guilty in a court of law.