ID theft victims speak out - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

ID theft victims speak out

Kwezeta Butler Kwezeta Butler
Billie Crane Billie Crane

January 7, 2004

Crisp County-  Victims of an Identity Theft ring that targeted the dead, speak out. "I classify this people who did this dastardly deed as grave robbers."  This woman helped stop the ring that was stealing the identities of the dead.

Two years ago,  Billie Crane of Crisp County got a call about a credit card her brother had applied for.  But Crane's brother was dead. Crane soon learned that someone had applied for 21 lines of credit in his name.

Crane called her son, a Crisp County deputy. The investigation quickly escalated, leading them to a state-wide Identity Theft ring working out of Dougherty County.

72 Year old Johnnie Salter of Crisp County died December 22nd, 2001. Just weeks later, his sister Billie Crane learned someone took his name from his obituary notice in the newspaper, and stole his identity, applying for credit cards and car loans.

Crane said "You feel like you have been violated. You feel like his reputation has been violated. It's really a hard thing to handle at that particular time."

Crane's son is Sgt. Mike Mitchell with the Crisp County Sheriff's office. An investigation into Salter's case led to a huge identity theft ring in Albany. Investigators say Kwezeta Butler of Albany is the suspected leader of the ring, which stole the identities of living and dead people from five states.

Police say she would take the names and addresses of deceased from the obituaries, get their Social Security numbers and personal information from Internet information services. Investigators say she sold hundreds of identities to people for 500 dollars apiece. Then she started working with a metro Atlanta car dealership, using those stolen identities to co-sign car loans and sell cars to people with bad credit.

Before dawn Tuesday the GBI lead a raid in 11 counties to round up 80 people in connection with this Identity Theft ring. 54 people have been arrested so far, and the GBI said more are expected to turn themselves in.

This Identity Theft ring, which Investigators say lead to the illegal purchase of over 100 cars, was brought down by a loving sister, who would not let her brother be victimized after his death.

Crane said "I think anything short of a death sentence would be too good for them. I feel as little for their life, as they felt for us."

Billie Crane says Identity Theft of the dead is not a victimless crime, and hopes the break up of this ring will bring closure to the pain it caused their family.

GBI agents say the investigation into this identity theft ring continues, and more arrests are expected.

posted at 5:05PM by dave.miller@walb.com

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