Four people have pleaded guilty in connection to identity theft charges after a joint federal investigation by the United States Secret Service and the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.
Police said that Aisha Baker of Guilford County was charged on two counts of bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. Barry Alonzo Hillian II, 26, of 4104 Stirrup Drive, Apt. E, High Point, Jared Lamont Millar, 25, of 3310 Rehobeth Church Road, Apt. K, Greensboro, and Schon Lenaire Harris, 40, 1408 Jackson St., Burlington, also pleaded guilty to related charges, lawmen said.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, an investigation was conducted from September 2007 to June 2009 after 10 citizens of Richmond County became victims of identity theft and were involved in the loss of financial funds from their checking accounts.
In September 2007, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and Rockingham Police Department said they received 10 reports of identity theft in which personal check routing and account numbers of private individuals had been used to create counterfeit checks. Those checks were allegedly being passed at businesses in North Carolina in the towns of Burlington, Kernersville, Mooresville, Statesville, Winston Salem, Greensboro, Raleigh and Salisbury. Other checks were cashed in Spartanburg, S.C., Springdale, Ohio, and Cincinnati, Ohio. In all, police said there were a total of 10 victims identified with a total dollar loss of more than $13,000.
The only common factor among all ten victims was that they were customers of one private business in Rockingham, authorities said. All the victims were working class members of the community, according to investigators.
The Sheriff’s Office learned from a loss prevention employee of a department store in Iredell County that store security photographs had captured two persons — a male and female — acting independently of one another within the store. The suspects had allegedly passed two counterfeit checks, but then left the store together in a vehicle. Police said the license plate number of their vehicle was also captured by store security photographs.
A search on the license plate number revealed the name of a subject who lived in Thomasville, authorities said. The subject was allegedly involved with another female subject named Aisha Baker, who lived in Guilford County. Police said Baker was determined to be the female in the store security photograph. A special agent with the United States Secret Service became involved with the case and, through the efforts of that special agent, with the assistance of local authorities in Guilford County, a federal search warrant was obtained for Baker’s residence.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, evidence collected from that search led to a second search warrant in Guilford County, which revealed the involvement of several other persons in the case.
Authorities said a federal grand jury was convened in or about June 2009 and a true bill of indictment was secured, charging Baker with 15 counts of bank fraud and aggravated identity theft, totaling $4,151.
In 2009, Baker pleaded guilty on two counts involving bank fraud and aggravated identity theft, receiving a 15 month federal prison sentence, according to the Sheriff’s Office. A subject in the Charlotte corporate office for the business in Rockingham, which all 10 victims had in common, had reportedly sold checking account numbers of the Richmond County victims to Baker and others, which allowed the counterfeit checks to be created with actual personal identification information of each victim.
Although evidence involving other suspects was strong, police said the U.S. Attorney chose not to pursue any charges against any other person except Baker.
All the evidence collected in this case by the Secret Service was provided to the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, authorities said, and warrants were obtained for three subjects identified as responsible for passing the remaining counterfeit checks. Those subjects were identified as Hillian, Miller and Harris.
On Jan. 24, 2012, Barry Hillian was arrested in Atlanta, Ga., and extradited to North Carolina on Feb. 9, 2012, where police said he was placed in the Richmond County Jail under a $50,000 bond. On March 1, 2012, Hillian pleaded guilty on two counts of attempted identity theft and received a six to eight month suspended sentence with 18 months probation and $619.36 in restitution, according to the Sheriff’s Office. His probation was then transferred to Atlanta, Ga.
On Aug. 12, 2009, authorities said Miller was arrested in Campbell County, Va., on unrelated charges for felony larceny and obtaining property by false pretense and was being held at Blue Ridge Regional Jail in Rustburg, Va. Montgomery County and Guilford County Sheriff’s Offices held failure to appear warrants for Miller on driving while license revoked in Montgomery County and identity theft charges in both Guilford and Richmond Counties, which made requests for Miller’s extradition to North Carolina upon the completion of his conviction in Virginia. In May of 2010, police said Miller was extradited to the Guilford County Jail and on March 7, 2011, he pleaded guilty on two counts of identity theft in Richmond County and combined with his guilty plea in Guilford County, received a suspended sentence of 10 to 12 months with three years probation and $1,954.33 in restitution. He was transferred to Guilford County.
The third and final suspect, Schon Lenaire Harris, was arrested in Burlington on Nov. 23, 2011, and placed in the Iredell County Jail under a $10,000 bond. On April 5, 2012, the Sheriff’s Office said he pleaded guilty to uttering a forged instrument in Iredell County, which included the case in Richmond County, and received a five to six month suspended sentence with 24 months probation.
The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office would like to notify citizens that identity theft can strike at any time and without your knowledge of ever having revealed your personal information to anyone. These cases can take years to solve and even longer to clear your credit record.
You should take every precaution you can to protect your personal information in order to prevent this from happening to you.
Richmond County Sheriff James Clemmons Jr. offered several tips to consider to help prevent identity theft from happening to you.
“When you go shopping and use your debit card, you should utilize the credit side,” Sheriff Clemmons said. “That way, you’re not required to punch in a pin number, because you never know who will be looking over your shoulder, taking a picture, or even recording your actions as you swipe. Do things that require a signature.”
The sheriff also suggested that ladies carry smaller bags while shopping.
“Carry only what you need into the store,” Clemmons said, “such as small wallet, rather than a big purse. That way, you’re not laying your card on the counter top or machine where other people are reading your card numbers as you’re looking for other items in your purse.”
While at home, there are also steps you can take to maintain a secure identity.
“Another thing you can do is to periodically check your credit report,” the sheriff said. “As you check your report, it will let you know whether or not someone has made an attempt to use your credit or your identity.”
If it is possible that you or someone you know may have been a victim of identity theft, contact your local law enforcement agency.