Routine Traffic Stop

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51517785 - padlock and social security card - identity theft and identity protection concept

The Bureau of Justice Statistics states that the most common reason for coming in contact with a police officer is a routine traffic stop. The agency reports that U.S. residents, age 16 or older who had contact with police in 2015 totaled 53.5 million. That number represents quite a few opportunities to catch criminals who might be trying to hide from authorities. A South Dakota Highway Patrol officer, who pulled over a car for a routine traffic stop, got more than he bargained for – a 31-year-old woman who possessed a handwritten list of 60 Social Security numbers (SSNs). Read on to find out more about the fraudster who is now in trouble for Social Security fraud, identity theft and tax fraud.

The Highway Patrol officer uncovered the driver’s sophisticated scam after pulling over the car she was driving near Belle Fourche. The trooper determined that the car with Arizona license plates was a rental and the woman driving it was not listed on the car’s rental agreement. (Oh, and you should also know that the car was overdue to an Arizona rental agency by nine days.)

A police dog discovered a large amount of cash stuffed inside socks in a suitcase. Another trooper, who had seen the driver throw an item out of the window, found a small bag of marijuana. (As if that is not interesting enough, the search continued, and the trooper found a black notebook with 60 handwritten SSNs, names and birth dates.)

Working together, the police and IRS investigators linked the SSNs, addresses and other personal information found in her little black book to 17 false tax returns traceable to an IP address that the fraudster had used. (Some of the victims who had their identities stolen were contacted and they confirmed that the returns were fake.) It turns out that the 31-year-old woman had used the 60 stolen identities to file 79 false tax returns. (She collected $105,605 over five tax years.)

Today’s fraud article states that it is uncertain where the woman is from, but she was arrested in Phoenix after being indicted in U.S. District Court in South Dakota. The driver of the car pleaded guilty to Social Security fraud and was then returned to the county jail in Rapid City, South Dakota where she is held without bond, because she failed to appear at an earlier court date. (She’s not helping herself at all.) A passenger, who was also in the car, was the owner of the notebook. That person also pleaded guilty to a federal fraud charge.

The driver’s crime for possessing 15 more unauthorized access devices (SSNs in this case) carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a possible $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release and a $100 payment to the victim’s assistance fund. (A $100 payment to the victim’s fund doesn’t seem nearly high enough for what she did with the identities she stole.)

It looks like what started out as a routine traffic stop has become much more complicated than ever imagined. Kudos to the South Dakota Highway Trooper for putting the breaks on this fraudster’s multiple crimes.

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, Woman found with 60 Social Security numbers pleads guilty to fraud,” published by Rapid City Journal on October 19, 2018.

In 2015, a Highway Patrol trooper pulled over a car for what they likely thought was a routine traffic stop. Instead, troopers ended up finding a notebook with a handwritten list of 60 Social Security numbers, names and birthdays, according to court records.

On Friday, the passenger in that car and owner of the notebook pleaded guilty to a federal fraud charge.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.