Alleged identity thieves target local car dealership customers - KMOV.com

Alleged identity thieves target local car dealership customers

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Jesse Chitwood, Jessica Franklin & John Townsend are charged in a federal indictment related to the identity theft ring (Credit: Franklin County Sheriff's Office). Jesse Chitwood, Jessica Franklin & John Townsend are charged in a federal indictment related to the identity theft ring (Credit: Franklin County Sheriff's Office).

UNION, Mo. (KMOV.com) – Police say three suspects are indicted for running an in-depth identity theft ring that racked up thousands in fraudulent purchases after stealing customer’s personal information from a local car dealership.

Police are warning that there may be more victims of this identity theft ring and who do not even know they were targets. Those individuals and stores includes credit cards that were used and fraudulent checks that were cashed.      

Jesse Chitwood, 34, Jessica Franklin, 37, and John Townsend, 35, were charged in a federal indictment on multiple counts of identity theft.               

Investigators say this crime was an intricate identity theft ring that operated from Columbia, Missouri to St. Louis, Missouri and south to Farmington, Missouri while using fraudulent credit cards and cashing fake payroll checks.

Police say the three operated the identity theft ring to get money to run a significant meth and heroin operation.

According to authorities, if you have ever test driven a car at a West St. Louis County car dealership, you could be a victim.

Investigators say an employee was stealing customers’ driver’s license information and Social Security numbers that were used to run credit checks.

Detective Jim Briggs, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office said, “All that information for potential transactions to purchase cars to test drive or anything like that and he would take these files and trade it for methamphetamine."

Another suspect allegedly took the personal information to get new credit cards and went on spending sprees, police say. A $5,000 mower was one of the purchases, investigators say.

The suspects are also accused of printing payroll checks for hundreds of dollars each and cashing them at Walmart and Target stores.

"The payroll checks we believe were actually used to fund the methamphetamine they were bringing back to the area to sell on the streets," said Briggs.

Investigators say they are asking businesses if they have seen the suspects in their stores as they try to determine if there are more victims.

"The tough part for law enforcement is that we are going through every one of our businesses that we think are potential victims; go through months and months if not years of payroll checks to make sure that they were legitimate payroll checks," said Briggs.

How do can you check to see if you are a victim? Police suggest to check your credit report and see if there are any new credit cards that you never applied for. If you find any, notify police.

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