August 1, 2014
Independence, Mo. – Attorney General Chris Koster and Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker announced that Jackson County Circuit Judge Charles McKenzie sentenced Terry Morrow on Thursday to 15 years in prison on multiple felony convictions related to his extensive identify theft scheme in the Kansas City area.
Morrow's identity theft scheme was conducted through his company, Edge Auto Sales, an auto dealership with locations in Blue Springs and Independence. Morrow acquired personal identifying information about his victims through their applications for auto financing. Morrow used the victims' information to forge dozens of fraudulent auto loans for car sales that never occurred. Morrow then sold those fraudulent loans to automotive finance companies, who bought the rights to collect on the loans for a lump sum payment to Morrow.
The Missouri Attorney General began investigating Morrow in 2012 after receiving a tip from a consumer who discovered a fake car loan on her credit report.
In addition to Edge Auto, the Attorney General's Office discovered that Morrow fabricated the existence of a dealership in Kansas City, forging documents so that it appeared to be owned and operated by one of his Edge Auto victims. Morrow also created fake loans through this fictitious dealership. In 2012, Morrow created another dealership, Silver Star Motors, in Illinois. Through this new dealership, Morrow reused identities of his Jackson County victims in addition to selecting new victims in Illinois to continue his scam. An Illinois consumer checking his credit report also discovered a fraudulent car loan and alerted authorities there.
In April, Morrow pleaded guilty to nine felony counts of forgery, nine felony counts of deceptive business practices and two felony counts of identity theft. On Thursday, the judge sentenced him to 15 years on each of the two identity theft counts, seven years on each of the nine forgery counts, and four years on each of the deceptive business practices counts. The sentences were ordered to run concurrently and Morrow received approximately a year in credit for time served. The Missouri Attorney General's Office assisted Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker in the prosecution.
Koster said that his office identified at least 44 Missouri victims and approximately $1.125 million of fraudulent loans, which Morrow sold to four automobile-finance companies for approximately $478,000 in cash.
"Terry Morrow perpetrated the most extensive identity theft scheme ever prosecuted in Missouri and the sentence handed down today reflects the severity of his crimes," said Koster. "His scheme was discovered because consumers checked their credit reports and found loans they had not taken out. Without that consumer vigilance there is no telling how many more victims there might have been."
"Today, a loud and clear message was sent to anyone that thinks they can take advantage of Missouri consumers for their own personal gain," said Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker. "We thank the Attorney General and his staff for their partnership and continued work protecting the consumers of Missouri."
Koster said this case highlights the need for consumers to check their credit reports at least once per year. Consumers are entitled to one free annual credit report from each of the three credit bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Consumers can access those free annual reports by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 877-322-8228.
Additional tips and information about identity theft from the Attorney General can be found at http://ago.mo.gov/publications/idtheft.htm. The Federal Trade Commission also offers free resources for consumers on identity theft at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft.