Thursday, April 12, 2012

Traffic Stop Leads To Discovery Of ID Theft, Arrest

A traffic stop on Interstate 75 on Wednesday turned up more than 100 potentially stolen IDs and fraudulent tax returns and resulted in the arrest of a Miami-Dade County woman.

Debbie Jean Cooper, 53, Miami Gardens, was arrested and charged with eight counts of identity theft.

An investigation continues and more charges are likely. Detectives said the case involves potentially more than 100 victims.

Collier County Sheriff’s Office arrest reports gave this account:

A deputy stopped a 2006 white Lexus on westbound I-75 near the 84 mile marker for excessive speed around 12:30 p.m. The vehicle was traveling 115 mph in a 70 mph zone.

The driver, Cooper, told the deputy she was in a hurry for a court appearance in Lee County.

The deputy asked Cooper if he could search her vehicle and she gave him permission.

Cooper told the deputy that she owned a tax preparation company and had documents from her business inside the vehicle.

During the search the deputy discovered a piece of paper with 13 handwritten names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers in Cooper’s purse.

The deputy immediately recognized that such lists are typically associated with identity theft and tax fraud cases. It also isn’t typical for a person running a tax preparation company to carry such a list.

The search also turned up:

* Two checks, one of which has been confirmed to be fraudulent.

* More than 70 federal information worksheets for filing taxes for 2011. Each worksheet contained a separate name, date of birth and Social Security number.

* Multiple envelopes containing a tax return credit card. Each envelope contained the account holder’s name, account number and pin number for the card, along with receipts from withdrawals of money in which Cooper used the tax return card.

* A large printed list of names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers from a facility in Miami that houses special needs patients

During the traffic stop, the deputy made phone contact with two people whose names were on the paperwork found inside Cooper’s vehicle. Both stated that they were victims of identity theft/tax fraud and that Cooper should not have their personal identification information. They told the deputy they wanted to press charges.

Further investigation led to six more victims who were willing to press charges.