CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) - Police and federal authorities busted an "identity theft ring" in Charlotte, according to newly unsealed court records.
The group is accused of stealing bank account information and Social Security numbers for more than a year, using the sensitive data to lease apartments, pay for hotel rooms and steal nearly $70,000 from credit unions across the state.
The court filing was discovered by former US intelligence official Seamus Hughes, who is now with George Washington University.
"People bid or will actually buy your information" on the dark web," said cyber expert Tom Jelneck with On Target Web Solutions. "And then they can run rampant."
In this case, the group conducted "numerous fraudulent cash advances," according to the federal search warrant, stealing $67,950 from State Employees' Credit Union branches in Charlotte and around the state.
Last week, Tyquis Jenkins, nicknamed "Snow," was arrested after an investigation by the FBI and Secret Service. FOX 46 found Jenkins has been arrested at least a dozen times since 2016, charged with identity theft, financial crimes and fraud.
According to the recently unsealed search warrant, investigators say Jenkins was up to his old ways. He is accused of cloning credit cards, illegally possessing a firearm and leasing an apartment at the Alta Prosperity Village using a stolen identity.
FOX 46 investigative reporter Matt Grant knocked but nobody answered.
"If you have really great credit, that's gold to a thief," said Jelneck. "Because if you have a great credit score you can darn near buy anything."
"It seems brazen, quite frankly," said Mike Holland with Fortalice, a Charlotte cyber security consulting firm that advises governments and private businesses.
Holland reviewed the search warrant and said it's a good reminder that consumers need to safeguard sensitive data.
"There's a tremendous amount of information that can be stolen if you're not careful," said Holland.
To protect your identity and your wallet, Holland recommends:
- Using complex passwords
- Never opening attachments from e-mails you don't recognize
- Use two-factor authentication for online bank accounts
"The consumer has to take more action," said Holland. "Because these criminals, whether it's this individual who was recently arrested, or it's going to be someone else. It's like whack-a-mole. They'll keep popping up."
Jenkins was arrested by CMPD's financial crimes task force. FOX 46 reached out to CMPD for comment on the investigation but didn't hear back.
Jenkins was released from the Mecklenburg County Jail on June 6, a day after his arrest, on a $15,000 bond. He is scheduled to go before a judge on Monday.