ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Jurors returned guilty verdicts yesterday against four leaders of a wide-ranging identity fraud ring based in the Twin Cities that bilked about $2 million from credit unions, banks and retailers across 14 states.

The defendants were among 28 people charged in the conspiracy; their co-defendants have all pleaded guilty.

Among the credit unions hit by the ring, that stole financial information and identities of hundreds of people from cars, businesses, trash cans and mailboxes, were: Affinity Plus FCU, Members Cooperative CU, Oswego CU, Postal FCU, Richfield Bloomington FCU, Topline FCU, United FCU, US FCU and Wings Financial CU.

Also hit were: Associated Bank, Bank of America, Bremer Bank, Central Bank, Eastwood Bank, Farmers State Bank, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, First Security Bank, Guaranty Bank, National City Bank, TCF Bank and Think Mutual Bank, the former Think FCU in branches throughout Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Indiana, Missouri and Mississippi.

Ring members created counterfeit checks and fake IDs and used them to buy expensive items and gift cards at retail stores, then later returned the loot for cash. Bogus documents were used to open bank accounts or to pilfer existing accounts.

Those convicted yesterday were Joel Powell, 46, Desmon Burks, 37, Frederick Hamilton, 55, and Norman Allen, 43, who were each found guilty of conspiracy. They will be sentenced at a later date.




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