Eight Individuals Face Fraud, Identity Theft Charges Involving Possession of Names, Information of More Than 143,000 Individuals

February 17 – A 56-count federal indictment returned by a Utah grand jury charges eight individuals in connection with what the indictment alleges was a scheme to use fraudulently created identification documents and fraudulently obtained bank account information to open store credit accounts. The defendants then used the newly-obtained credit to make purchases at various merchants in Salt Lake County.

The indictment alleges the defendants possessed the names of more than 143,000 individuals – nearly one in 20 Utahns – most of whom either live in Utah or lived in the state at some point. In addition to the names, the defendants had corresponding personal identifying information of these individuals. The source of the information is not known, but the format of the database suggests it may have come from a medical insurance provider or a business who provided services to a medical insurance provider more than five years ago.

Charged in the indictment are Danny Lechtenberg, age 36, Jesse Ryan Bell, age 30, Christopher Wayne Cummings, age 33, Jody Ray Bledsoe, age 44, and Christopher Winterton, age 35, all of Taylorsville; Carolina Cueller Morton, age 53, and Donald Leslie Peck, age 51, both of Salt Lake City; and Tina Marie Schilling, age 57, of West Valley City.

A sealed indictment was returned by a federal grand jury Feb. 1, 2017. It was unsealed Feb. 3, 2017.

According to the indictment, the defendants obtained the names and personal identifying information of individuals primarily living in Utah, created false and fraudulent identification documents using the individuals’ personal identifying information; opened credit accounts at retail merchants; and made fraudulent purchases using the names and credit account numbers taken out in the names of the individuals knowing that financial institutions, which secured the credit cards for the merchants, would rely on the fraudulent information provided to open and secure these credit accounts.

Each defendant is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud in the first count of the indictment. Lechtenberg is also charged with bank fraud, possession with intent to use or transfer five or more documents; using an unauthorized access device; aggravated identity theft; and unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance – marijuana. In addition to the conspiracy to commit bank fraud count, the other defendants face bank fraud, using an unauthorized access device, and aggravated identity theft counts. (See the chart at the end of the press release for more specific information on the individual charges.)

Lechtenberg, Bell, Cummings, Morton, and Winterton were arrested on federal warrants and had initial appearances in federal court Feb. 3, 2017. Lechtenberg, Winterton and Cummings are in custody. Lechtenberg has a detention hearing Friday at 2:30 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Evelyn J. Furse. Magistrate Judge Furse found that Morton and Bell pose a risk of non-appearance and are a danger to the safety of others and the community, but found those risks are manageable under a combination of conditions. Bledsoe, Peck, and Schilling are scheduled for initial appearances on the charges Feb. 28, 2017, at 2:30 p.m. These three were issued summons to appear in court.

While more than 143,000 people were included in the database, the evidence suggests that only a small number of people had their identity used for a fraudulent purpose. Those individuals who have been identified as suffering a direct impact have been notified that they are victims of the charged crimes.

The case is being investigated by the Unified Police Department, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and member agencies of the Utah Identity Theft Task Force. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Salt Lake City.

Breakdown of charges

1. Danny Lechtenberg
Counts Charges

1 –  Conspiracy to commit bank fraud
2-7 –  Bank fraud
33 –  Possession with intent to use or transfer five or more documents
34-36 –  Identity theft
39, 41, 44, 46, 48, 50, 52, 54 –  Using an unauthorized access device
37, 38, 40, 42, 43, 45, 47, 49, 41, 53, 55 –  Aggravated identity theft
56 –  Manufacture of a controlled substance/marijuana

2. Jesse Ryan Bell
Counts Charges

1 –  Conspiracy to commit bank fraud
8-9 –  Bank fraud
39 –  Using an unauthorized access device
40 –  Aggravated identity theft

3. Christopher Wayne Cummings
Counts Charges

1 –  Conspiracy to commit bank fraud
10-14 –  Bank fraud
41 –  Using an unauthorized access device
42-43 –  Aggravated identity theft

4. Jody Ray Bledsoe
Counts Charges

1 –  Conspiracy to commit bank fraud
15-17 –  Bank fraud
44 –  Using an unauthorized access device
45 –  Aggravated identity theft

5. Carolina Cuellar Morton
Counts Charges

1 –  Conspiracy to commit bank fraud
18-23 –  Bank fraud
46 –  Using an unauthorized access device
49 –  Aggravated identity theft

6. Christopher Winterton
Counts Charges

1 –  Conspiracy to commit bank fraud
24-26 –  Bank fraud
50 –  Using an unauthorized access device
51 –  Aggravated identity theft

7. Donald Leslie Peck
Counts Charges

1 –  Conspiracy to commit bank fraud
27-28 –  Bank fraud
52 –  Using an unauthorized access device
53 –  Aggravated identity theft

8. Tina Marie Schilling
Counts Charges

1 –  Conspiracy to commit bank fraud
29-32 –  Bank fraud
54 –  Using an unauthorized access device
55 –  Aggravated identity theft

To determine if your personal information was included in the compromised database, please contact the Department of Justice’s Mega-Victim Case Assistance Program at 1-844-527-5299 or [email protected]. If there was evidence to suggest that your information was used for a fraudulent purpose, you should have already received a personal letter from the Victim Notification System. Even if you are not among the identified victims, however, it is possible that your information may have been used on third party websites to check credit scores or obtain unauthorized credit accounts. We encourage you to monitor your credit and notify investigators if you suspect fraudulent activity.

SOURCE: U.S. Attorney’s Office, Utah

Note from Dissent:  According to the indictment, this scheme ran from “From on or about at least August 16, 2014, and continuing to on or about December 24, 2015.” 

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