Four suspected in sophisticated ID theft ring

A couple of the bogus credit cards the suspects allegedly used.

January 18, 2011 4:43:01 PM PST
Expensive cars, lavish homes, luxury living -- police say it was a lifestyle paid for with other people's money. Police are searching for four suspects accused of operating a massive identity theft ring and they say it's a far reaching investigation, with victims across the country.

Police say those suspects are still at large, still likely ripping people off. So far, they've identified at least 28 victims from Houston, Richmond and Cypress, and even as far away as California.

Police say surveillance video shows Shawn Young purchasing gift cards more than a year ago. Investigators say he orchestrated the ID theft, along with his girlfriend Lajuan Bailey, her brother James Burke and her daughter Lauren Roper.

Lt. Onesimo Lopez with the Pearland Police Department said, "During the investigation, we found that these individuals have not had gainful employment for the last three years."

Detectives say they lived in two homes in Pearland -- one is a 7,000 square foot property on Bayport Drive, where police reportedly found $30,000 in cash last July.

The suspects allegedly purchased a number of vehicles, including a BMW and a Corvette convertible, as well as a truck that police say was tricked out with $40,000 in upgrades. Police call the total amount stolen staggering.

"From our investigation alone, it's been upwards of a million dollars when you factor in the vehicles that they purchased, the homes they were living in and just the cash that they had," Lt. Lopez said.

Detectives say the suspects had an accomplice, likely a cashier at another business who skimmed legitimate credit card data from unsuspecting customers. The suspects would then allegedly transfer that information to the magnetic strips on the back of blank cards and then emboss the cards with their own names and bogus numbers. The credit cards were then used to purchase gift cards, repeatedly. Police say the cards were either used by the suspects or sold.

Shawn Young was arrested in July, but bonded out and has since disappeared. Police believe he and the other three suspects are still somewhere in the Houston area. Brazoria County Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to arrests and convictions. You can call them at 800-460-2222.

We worked on this story with our partners at Houston Community Newspapers. You can read more in the Pearland Journal.