Diagram showing theft ring connections. (Photo Source: KTLV Staff)
SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) -
The case of an elaborate identity theft ring that victimized more than 50 people and put two dozen criminals behind bars, is finally over. Thursday, the last defendant, 26-year-old Blake Gee, was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Prosecutors believe he was one of the leaders who organized the victims' sensitive information.
"I do regret my role in this situation," Gee explained from the witness stand.
Remorse wasn't enough to save Gee from one of the highest sentences for his role in a massive identity theft conspiracy. According to Tyler police, the ring stole sensitive information like names, addresses, phone numbers and social security numbers. Then, they applied for online loans, deposited that money into different bank accounts and spent the money after splitting it among themselves.
"I think it probably started a little less sophisticated, and it became more sophisticated as they figured out what they were doing," says Kenneth Biggs, Smith County Assistant District Attorney.
In May 2013, a supposed ring leader, Brandon Sessions, was among the first arrested. In the days following Sessions' arrest, 20 other people were arrested.
"We'd just like to know where it came from. I don't know Brandon Sessions or any of those people," one victim said in May 2013.
A year later, the victims still don't know how the criminals got their information. It's the one thing investigators never nailed down either.
"It ended up being a pointing match between the defendants who each claim that the other had done it and no one knew where the information came from," explains Biggs.
Biggs prosecuted the cases after Tyler Police uncovered the ring. In total, 22 people were sentenced after taking out false loans that damaged the credit of more than 50 victims. However, it's the organizers and recruiters to the ring that got handed the heaviest punishments.
"You had this middle tier of people who were really just kind of recruiting more people into the conspiracy for the purpose of just having the deposits made into their accounts," adds Biggs.
More than a dozen of the people involved were recruited to the ring. Many of those defendants had no criminal history and made just a few hundred dollars for their involvement, but being a part of this crime is something that will stick with them and their victims forever.
The 22 people charged in the theft ring received punishments ranging from 40 years in prison to 10 years probation.
Saturday, July 26 2014 2:09 PM EDT2014-07-26 18:09:07 GMT
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