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Two sentenced in identity theft tax refund fraud scheme involving thousands of patients’ personal identity information


IRS warns against tax return identity theft scams

IRS warns against tax return identity theft scams

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, announced late Friday that Michael Ali Bryant, Sr., and his wife, Latina Rashawn Bryant, both of Lauderdale Lakes, were sentenced for their participation in a stolen identity tax refund scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

Michael Bryant, 41, was sentenced to 144 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.  Latina Bryant, 43, was sentenced to 48 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.

Having previously pled guilty to one count of aggravated identity theft, Michael Bryant also pled guilty to one count of possession of fifteen or more unauthorized access devices.

Latina Bryant previously pled guilty to one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of using an unauthorized access device.

Co-defendant Marquis Onigirin Moye, 24, of Pompano Beach, was sentenced on March 28, 2014 to 54 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.  Moye previously pled guilty to one count of possession of fifteen or more unauthorized access devices, and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Co-defendants Tiffany Shenae Cooper, 33, of Deerfield Beach, and Angela Dione Rosier, 41, of Coral Springs, were sentenced on February 28, 2014.  Cooper was sentenced to 57 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Rosier was sentenced to 49 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.   The court also ordered both defendants to pay $129,390.06 in restitution to the IRS and the medical services provider whose database had been breached.

Cooper previously pled guilty to one count of possession of fifteen or more unauthorized access devices and one count of aggravated identity theft.  Rosier previously pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit access device fraud.

According to court records, a confidential source initially approached Michael Bryant and inquired about purchasing narcotics.  Bryant told the operative that he did not have any narcotics but that he did have personal identity information that he was willing to sell.  A controlled purchase of approximately 230 names was made.

Bryant instructed the operative on how to commit tax fraud and provided specific instructions on what information to enter into the web pages of the internet-based tax services to obtain a tax refund.

An examination of the records revealed that they were from a medical services provider.

Rosier was an employee of the medical services provider.  Cooper spoke to Rosier to obtain user names and passwords for current employees of the medical services provider.  Cooper admitted to illegally logging on to the medical services provider’s computer network and downloading personal information for the purpose of committing various types of fraud.  She was assisted in her activities by Rosier and co-defendant Moye.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and IRS-CI.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia R. Wood.

William E. Lewis Jr & Associates opens new location in Davie


As a nationally recognized credit repair and identity theft expert, Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

As a nationally recognized credit repair and identity theft expert, Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

As a nationally recognized credit repair and identity theft expert, Bill Lewis of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates – a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity – announces the opening of a new office in Davie, Florida.

Having outgrown their former location, William E. Lewis Jr & Associates recently moved to 6099 Stirling Road, Suite 210, Davie, FL 33314. 

Formerly with Credit Restoration Consultants, Bill Lewis has been widely sought by many in the restoration of their personal credit worthiness.  As such, a new credit repair component was formed.

In tough economic times, your good name and reputation are more important than ever. Creditors have tightened their guidelines effectively barring millions of Americans from obtaining credit.  Even those with excellent credit are experiencing reduced credit limits and closed equity lines. Mortgage lenders, auto finance companies, credit card issuers and banks have all raised the bar.

The terms credit repair, credit restoration or credit rehabilitation are somewhat synonymous. Those with bad credit histories cannot afford to ignore the potential benefits of credit repair. In today’s economy, a strong FICO score is more important than ever.

Approximately 78% of credit profiles in the United States contain some sort of error or omission materially affecting credit worthiness.  Absent self-help and the “do-it-yourself” approach, a consumer may hire a credit repair company in the restoration of their good name and reputation within the community.

Long gone are the days of obtaining credit, goods, benefits, services and/or employment with a 620 score. In most instances, a consumer will be denied if they maintain a credit score lower than 740. Even those with high credit scores have experienced closed credit card accounts and equity lines.  When an account has not been closed, credit limits have been reduced to the current balance due.

Borrowers with low credit scores can expect to be denied or to pay significantly higher interest rates than those with excellent credit.

Operating within William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates is a boutique credit service organization specializing in the restoration of consumer credit worthiness as well as identity theft. Assisting consumers in achieving a favorable financial credit profile is their first priority.

Everything they do at William E. Lewis Jr & Associates is legal utilizing laws enacted by Congress to dispute negative, erroneous, obsolete, and/or fraudulent information contained within your consumer credit profile.

Utilizing the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Billing Act, and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, William E. Lewis Jr & Associates will assist consumers in the submission of disputes electronically, verbally and in writing to the Equifax, Experian and Trans Union consumer reporting agencies in addition to creditors, collection agencies, third-party record providers and state/federal/private regulatory authorities.

Unlike most credit repair clinics that submit the same written dispute letters monthly, William E. Lewis Jr & Associates has devised a credit restoration strategy utilizing the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Billing Act, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, in addition to laws applicable to a consumers state of residence. 

Keep in mind that anything William E. Lewis Jr & Associates can do – you can do yourself.  That means that you do not have to hire William E. Lewis Jr & Associates – or any other credit repair company – to review, investigate and/or dispute alleged discrepancies on your credit report.

Where William E. Lewis Jr & Associates may have an edge over the average consumer is that we possess the education, knowledge and a source proven method that consistently yields results.

William E. Lewis Jr & Associates has obtained thousands of deletions and updates for its clients and can help remove erroneous and/or inaccurate judgments, liens, bankruptcies, student loans, inquiries, derogatory accounts, personal identifiers, arrests, etc.  While the credit restoration process can take anywhere from 30 days to six months, most clients see dramatic results in 45-60 days.

Credit repair, credit restoration and/or credit rehabilitation is as legal as pleading “not guilty” in a court of law. With that said, one must understand that as a credit service organization William E. Lewis Jr & Associates is not a law firm and that none of their employees is an attorney licensed to practice law in the state of Florida.

As such, William E. Lewis Jr & Associates cannot provide legal advice nor represent any individual before any court or in any legal proceeding.  In the event that legal representation is required, William E. Lewis Jr & Associates may provide an appropriate attorney referral for consultation. 

Ordering Free Credit Reports:

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, as modified by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, consumers are entitled to a free copy of their credit report under a narrow set of circumstances.  If you have been denied credit, goods, benefits, services, insurance, and/or employment, the credit reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and Trans Union are statutorily mandated to provide a copy free of charge.

Equifax can be contacted at (800) 685-1111 or www.Equifax.com; Experian can be contacted at (888) 397-3742 or www.Experian.com; and Trans Union can be contacted at (800) 916-8800 or www.TransUnion.com. Be sure to prompt that you were denied credit when requested to do so.

Absent these exceptions, consumers are entitled to one free “annual credit report” per year. Credit scores are not included with any of the “free credit reports” provided by the national credit reporting agencies.

For your free annual credit report, contact the central source at 877-FACT-ACT (877-322-8228) or www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Follow the voice prompts and obtain your credit report for review.

When self-help or the “do-it-yourself” approach is not feasible and you decide to hire a company to restore your credit, be sure to check them out.  While the majority of credit repair clinics are scams, a few good ones do exist.  Consumers can check out a credit service organization through their state Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commissionat www.ftc.gov or through the Better Business Bureau at www.BBB.org.

For more information, please contact William E. Lewis Jr & Associates at (954) 337-1530 or visit them on the Internet at www.williamlewis.us.

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As a nationally recognized credit repair and identity theft expert, Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

For daily updates on The Credit Report with Bill Lewis, you can join Bill’s 11,550 plus fans on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/thecreditreportwithbilllewis.

Home buyers qualify for FHA loan despite short sale or foreclosure


Eli Younes of Viking Mortgage in Pembroke Pines

Eli Younes of Viking Mortgage in Pembroke Pines

Mortgage borrowers may now qualify for an FHA mortgage under new guidelines established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), according to Eli Younes of Viking Realty Group in Pembroke Pines on Tuesday.

As a result of the housing collapse, many homeowners experienced a serious reduction in income or lost their jobs due to the crumbling economy.   Some mortgage borrowers were forced to file bankruptcy or short sale their home to avoid foreclosure.  

Others were not so lucky and lost their home on the courthouse steps.

The new HUD rules allow borrowers whose credit was damaged due to a temporary loss of employment or income to qualify for an FHA mortgage if they have substantially recovered from that situation and maintained a positive credit history for at least 12 months.

Borrowers who recently experienced a bankruptcy, foreclosure, short-sale, loan delinquencies, deed-in-lieu, debt collections or other situation negatively impacting their FICO credit score may now be able to qualify for an FHA loan.

Recognizing that any number of events may have impacted a borrowers’ credit rating, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) believes that such catastrophic event does not mean they are not financially stable or unable to make a mortgage payment.  

As such, the previous 3-year waiting period required by the FHA on financing a new home has been revised.

“Referred to as the ‘Back to Work’ initiative, this program is designed for borrowers who lost their home through foreclosure, short sale, bankruptcy or deed in lieu and also suffered a 20% or more loss in household income,” Eli Younes of Viking Mortgage told Examiner.  “As with most FHA loans, this program only requires a 3.5% down payment and is applicable for all purchase loans other than the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage.”

In order to qualify for a mortgage under the “Back to Work” initiative, there are several steps that must be taken to prove an “Economic Event” that was beyond the borrower’s control.

Employment Requirements:

The lender must verify that the borrower lost at least 20% or more in household income – or became unemployed – for a period of six months prior to the foreclosure, short-sale, or deed-in-lieu.  To verify loss of income, the lender must request a written Verification of Employment to show the termination date or loss of income, receipt of unemployment compensation, or signed W-2′s and tax returns detailing the reduction in earnings.

To demonstrate a loss of income for part-time or seasonal employment, the borrower must prove a 2-year history in the same field prior to loss of employment.  Borrowers will also be required to prove that they have fully recovered from their hardship, increased earnings and have maintained other credit obligations for a period of 12 months following foreclosure, short sale, bankruptcy or deed in lieu.

Credit Requirements:

When evaluating a borrower for the “Back to Work” initiative following a foreclosure, the lender may deem the borrower eligible if:

1.)  The borrower’s credit report is free of any late housing payments within the last 12 months;

2.)  All other mortgage accounts must be current for the last 12 months, even if the loan was previously modified to avoid a foreclosure action;

3.)  The borrower’s credit report contains no more than a single 30-day delinquency on payments due other creditors; and

4.)  The borrower’s credit report contains no current collection accounts or public records.  This condition may be waived in instances of identity theft or borrower’s with medical collections.

Bankruptcy Filings:

1.)  Chapter 7 Bankruptcy:  One year must have elapsed since the bankruptcy discharge.  Proof must also be shown that the bankruptcy filing was the result of an “Economic Event” covered within the FHA program guidelines.

2.)  Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: Most lenders will require that the bankruptcy filing be discharged with all payments required under the agreement having been made on time.  For borrowers currently in bankruptcy, written approval from the court allowing them to enter a new mortgage contract is required.

Housing Counseling Requirement:

For purposes of establishing satisfactory credit following an “Economic Event,” mortgage borrowers’ under the “Back to Work” initiative must:

1.)  Receive homeownership counseling or a combination of homeownership education and counseling, at a minimum, one hour of one-on-one counseling from HUD-approved housing counseling agencies, as defined at 24 C.F.R. §214.100; and

2.)  Be completed a minimum of thirty (30) days but no more than six (6) months prior to submitting a loan application to a lender, as application is defined in Regulation X, implementing the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, 24 C.F.R. §3500.2(b).

The housing education may be provided by HUD-approved housing counseling agencies, state housing finance agencies, approved intermediaries or their sub-grantees, or through an online course.  It may be conducted in person, via telephone, via internet, or other methods approved by HUD, and mutually agreed upon by the borrower and housing counseling agency.

Rules for Renters:

Under certain circumstances, renters may qualify under the “Back to Work” initiative.  For purposes of establishing satisfactory credit, mortgage borrowers must:

1.)  The borrower’s credit report is free of any late rental payments within the last 12 months;

2.)  The borrower’s credit report contains no more than a single 30-day delinquency on payments due other creditors; and

3.)  The borrower’s credit report contains no current collection accounts or public records.  This condition may be waived in instances of identity theft or borrower’s with medical collections.

A foreclosure, short-sale, Chapter 13 bankruptcy or deed-in-lieu will continue to plague a borrower’s credit report at the Equifax, Experian and TransUnion consumer reporting agencies for a period of seven years.  A discharged Chapter 7 bankruptcy will remain on the credit report for a period of ten years.

“With the housing crash, many homeowners experienced unemployment or depreciated home values and for one reason or another were not able to make their mortgage payments,” Carlos J. Reyes, a foreclosure defense attorney with the Reyes Law Group in Fort Lauderdale, told Examiner.  “The recent changes in the FHA guidelines have finally recognized the financial hardship faced by many borrowers and is allowing them to once again reach for the American Dream through homeownership.”

The new guidelines are in effect immediately and will be in force through at least September, 2016.

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As a nationally recognized credit repair and ID theft expert, Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

Eight charged in identity theft fraud scheme involving AT&T customer files


Eight charged in identity theft fraud scheme involving AT&T customer files

Eight charged in identity theft fraud scheme involving AT&T customer files

Eight defendants have been charged with participating in a conspiracy to unjustly enrich themselves by stealing personal identifying information and using the information to make unauthorized wire transfers from victim bank accounts and obtaining unauthorized credit or debit cards, according to BankInfoSecurity.com on Monday.

Collectively named in a twenty-two count federal indictment were Chouman Emily Syrilien, 25, of Lauderdale Lakes, Arrington Basil Segu, 28, of Miami, Carlos Antonio Alexander, 24, of Orlando, Angel Arcos, 23, of Pompano Beach, Shantegra La’Shae Godfrey, 23, of Deerfield Beach, and Monique Smith, 31, of Pompano Beach.

Two unnamed defendants remain at large.

Each of the defendant’s was charged with one count of conspiracy and several defendants were charged individually with access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.

According to the indictment, Syrilien was employed by Interactive Response Technologies, lnc. (IRT) of Margate. IRT provides staffing for call centers to handle direct sales and customer inquiries for AT&T.  Syrilien unlawfully provided a co-conspirator with the personal identifying information from multiple AT&T customer files. Segu also unlawfully provided personal identifying information of numerous individuals to the co-conspirator.

Alexander, Godfrey, and Smith were added as “authorized users” on victims’ credit or debit card accounts or bank accounts.  This was done in order to access the accounts of victims whose personal identifying information had been stolen.

Once a conspirator’s name was added as an “authorized user,” the bank and/or credit card company was directed to mail additional debit or credit cards bearing the names of these newly added “authorized users” to their addresses or addresses under their control.  This was done without the true account holder’s knowledge or consent.

The defendants used these credit and debit cards to make purchases or obtain money.  Alexander, Smith and Godfrey each made both retail purchases as well as cash advances in excess of $24,000, $12,000 and $8,200, respectively.

Defendant Arcos allowed his personal information to be used to open a bank account to further the fraudulent activity.

AT&T customers who may have been impacted should immediately protect themselves from potential identity theft.

Periodically review your credit report

By keeping close tabs on your credit report, you can detect signs of identity theft early. If you find an account not opened by you and have identified it as fraudulent, enter a dispute directly with the creditor as well as with the credit reporting agencies of EquifaxExperian and TransUnion.

You can obtain a free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com or 877-322-8228.

Place a 90-day initial fraud alert on your credit report

Contact the credit reporting agencies and request a 90-day initial fraud alert on your credit report. Not only will this trigger a free credit report but will advise potential creditors to investigate any application prior to issuing credit, goods, benefits and/or services.

Equifax can be contacted at 800-525-6285, Experian at 888-397-3742 and Trans Union at 800-916-8800. Be sure to renew the alert every three months.

Freeze your credit report

Identity thieves are frozen in their tracks without access to your credit report as potential creditors will not have access to your credit history. In most states, you are entitled to temporarily “freeze” access to your credit profile without cost if you are over 65 years of age or are a verified victim of identity theft. All others may be required to pay a small fee.

Without access to your credit report, a responsible lender will not issue credit.

Stop unsolicited credit card offers

Opting out at www.optoutprescreen.com or 888-5OPT-OUT will stop most unsolicited pre-approved applications and reduce the incidence of identity theft. Opting out refers to the process of removing your name and address from lists supplied by the Equifax, Experian, Trans Union and Innovis credit reporting agencies to be used for firm (preapproved/ prescreened) offers of credit or insurance.

If convicted, each of the defendants face a maximum of thirty years in federal prison for the conspiracy charge, a maximum of ten years in prison for the access device fraud charge, and a mandatory term of two years in prison for each aggravated identity theft charge, at least one of which must be served consecutive to any other term in prison.

An indictment is only an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

As a nationally recognized credit repair and identity theft expert, Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

Pastor Bob Coy: Calvary Chapel removes all existence of church founder from website


Pastor Bob Coy

Pastor Bob Coy

Gone as if he never existed are the teaching and wisdom of Pastor Bob Coy, the now former senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. In an announcement made late Monday, church web pastor Dan Hickling attempts to explain why the media content was removed.

Where Did the Media Go?

Posted by Dan Hickling on Mon, Apr 7, 2014

Many have shared their thoughts about Pastor Bob’s messages and the media content that has been removed in light of his recent resignation.

The heart of the ministry of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale has always been and always will be that of making disciples and doing whatever we can to nourish God’s flock with the truth of His Word.  Pastor Bob’s messages are so full of truth and challenge and opportunity to grow. Life for so many of us, including myself, would be entirely different if we didn’t come in contact with this ministry.

So why was the media content removed? Unfortunately, not everyone, during circumstances like these comes to the website with a heart to learn more about the Bible. We’ve discerned the need to guard against those who would inappropriately misuse this content when time and space is needed for the Coy family to properly heal.

Unfortunately, we have already witnessed the malicious use of Pastor Bob’s images and vicious rumors on-line that can only run contrary to our hope for restoration.  With that in mind, we have taken the precaution to suspend access to his teaching content for now.

Please be patient with us as we seek God’s wisdom and guidance on how to best restore the content that we know He has used and can continue to use to make disciples.  Also, please pray for our church leadership to hear the Good Shepherd’s voice with great clarity and certainty in this decision making process.

Again, thank you for expressing how much Pastor Bob’s teaching ministry means to you, and I hope this helps to affirm that we are not out to simply take it all away, but to be the best stewards of it with all affected parties in mind.

With that being said, we are just as committed to providing the live stream of the weekly Wednesday night and Weekend services.  I pray that the Lord ministers to you in and through those windows of ministry as we heal through this time.

Thanks again and may the Lord continue to draw you close and make you more and more like Him.

In Christ,

Pastor Dan Hickling
Web Pastor
Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale

Pastor Bob Coy abruptly resigned, ending his 30-year leadership at one of the largest churches in the country on Sunday, according to Examiner.

Citing a “moral failing,” the senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale resigned amid reports of multiple affairs and allegations that he cheated on his wife, Diane Coy.

Pastor Bob Coy was also said to have an intense passion for pornography.

The megachurch did not elaborate on what Pastor Coy’s moral failings were, though.

Not present at the Sunday announcement in which his resignation was announced, church elders read a statement from Coy and answered parishioners’ questions.

“On April 3, 2014, Bob Coy resigned as senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, effective immediately, after confessing to a moral failing in his life which disqualifies him from continuing his leadership role at the church he has led since its founding in 1985,” the statement read.

Pastor Bob Coy and his wife Diane had led a Florida ministry that grew to include satellite locations in Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, West Boca, Plantation, Hollywood, and the Florida Keys.

“The way I see it, Bob Coy is a very selfish man, who indulged in his own personal desires, and when he got caught he abandoned his church,” Brian Craig, producer of The Steve Kane Show on AM 1470 WWNN told Examiner. The congregation deserves to be addressed directly and in person by Bob Coy. They need closure and will not get it until he comes forward and apologizes directly to them.”

Pastor Bob Coy: Calvary Chapel leader resigns amid cheating scandal


Pastor Bob Coy

Pastor Bob Coy

In an announcement made late Sunday afternoon, Pastor Bob Coy abruptly resigned, ending his 30-year leadership at one of the largest churches in the country, according to the Christian Post.

Citing a “moral failing,” the senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale resigned amid reports of multiple affairs and allegations that he cheated on his wife, Diane Coy.

Michael Newnham wrote in his blog that they have confirmation Coy admitted to at least two affairs in the past year alone and has had a long standing “problem with pornography.”

The megachurch did not elaborate on what Coy’s moral failings were.

Not present at the Sunday announcement in which his resignation was announced, church elders read a statement from Coy and answered parishioners’ questions.

“On April 3, 2014, Bob Coy resigned as senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, effective immediately, after confessing to a moral failing in his life which disqualifies him from continuing his leadership role at the church he has led since its founding in 1985,” the statement read.

Pastor Bob Coy and his wife Diane led a Florida ministry that grew to include satellite locations in Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, West Boca, Plantation, Hollywood, and the Keys, according to the SunSentinel.

“The way I see it, Bob Coy is a very selfish man, who indulged in his own personal desires, and when he got caught he abandoned his church,” Brian Craig, producer of The Steve Kane Show on AM 1470 WWNN told Examiner. The congregation deserves to be addressed directly and in person by Bob Coy. They need closure and will not get it until he comes forward and apologizes directly to them.”

According to Cavalry Chapel, their congregation consists of approximately 20,000 members.

“Every sinner’s got a future, every saint’s got a past.  Bob is a good man who made big mistakes like the rest of us, and he’ll pay the consequence like the rest of us,” Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney John Contini, author of several real-life crime dramas including Danger Road and Feeling the Heat, told Examiner.  “It’s more important to focus on what Jesus Christ said about this: “Judge not lest you be judged.  By the same measure you judge others, you too shall be judged.  Remove the log from your own eye before you look at the speck in your brother’s eye.”

The media ministry of the Active Word that distributes Pastor Bob’s Bible teachings through radio, television and digital media has also been suspended.  According to Cavalry Chapel, Coy will be focusing full attention on his personal relationship with God and his family.

The governing board of the church is providing counselors and ministers who reportedly will assist Coy and guide him through the process of full repentance, cleansing and restoration.

Following the announcement, the congregation had a prayer and worship service.

A number of members expressed disappointment, encouragement, and hope on Cavalry Chapel’s Facebook page.

Why are you taking down his preachings which have saved tens of thousands,” wrote Laura Wright in a Facebook comment. “You are acting as he never existed and his preachings weren’t worthy. I understand he needs to step down but I don’t think this is a good example at all.  Closing the comments? He was the founder of the church here and while he has sinned- deserves respect for what he contributed to this church in my opinion. I ask that you pray on this matter.”

“Pastor Bob has helped so many of us find peace in Jesus Christ,” wrote Regina Anderson. “Our Lord is a God of restoration and He will step in and raise up Pastor Bob and his family.”

Also a board member for the Calvary Chapel Association, Coy has already been removed from its leadership page.

Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

25 charged in identity theft and tax fraud scam


25 charged in identity theft and tax fraud scam

25 charged in identity theft and tax fraud scam

Identity theft and tax return identity theft charges were announced Thursday against 25 defendants in 19 separate cases, according to United States Attorney for the Southern District of FloridaWifredo A. Ferrer.

Dealing with thousands of stolen identities and millions of dollars of fraudulent identity theft tax filings, the charges filed reaffirmed the joint federal and local commitment to crack-down on stolen identity tax refund fraud (SIRF) perpetrators.

Florida – according to the Federal Trade Commission – had the highest rate of identity theft in the nation last year.  It had a rate of 192.9 complaints per 100,000 residents – the highest in the United States .

While identity theft in Florida ranks highest in the United States, the identity theft rate in Miami has reached near epidemic proportions –  with a rate of 340.4 complaints per 100,000 residents.

In an attempt to combat the rising wave of stolen identity tax refund scams and armed with recent directives from the Department of Justice’s Tax Division making prosecutions faster and easier, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida established the South Florida Identity Theft Tax Fraud Strike Force (Strike Force) in August 2012.

The members of the Strike Force include the United States Attorney’s Office, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Miami Field Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Miami Field Office, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Miami Division, Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General, Aventura Police Department, North Miami Beach Police Department, Miami-Dade Police Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, Miami Field Office, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Miami Field Division, Town of Davie Police Department, Florida Highway Patrol, Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Broward Sheriff’s Office, Ft. Lauderdale Police Department, Coconut Creek Police Department, Sunrise Police Department, Coral Springs Police Department, Miramar Police Department and North Miami Police Department.

Since the inception of the Strike Force, 296 defendants – responsible for approximately $485.5 million in intended stolen identity refund fraud loss and in excess of $106 million in actual SIRF fraud loss – have been charged in federal court.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the IRS have also attacked this problem by revoking “electronic filing identity numbers” or EFIN numbers, which allow individuals to file tax returns on behalf of others. Before revoking these EFIN numbers, SIRF fraudsters had used them to file 166,495 fraudulent tax refund claims over the past two years.

 “The number of stolen identities and the dollar amount of the tax fraud involved in these cases is staggering,” stated United States Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer.  “These cases serve as a reminder that each and every one of us is a potential victim. While we have a talented and effective team dedicated to fight this fraud, we need everyone – both taxpayers and institutions – to remain vigilant in safeguarding personal identifying information. Protect it as if it were a trade secret.”

U.S. Attorney Ferrer – joined by members of the Strike Force on Thursday – announced the most recent results of their investigative efforts.  The cases include:

1.   United States v. Rhim-Grant, et al., Case No. 14-20181-Cr-Lenard. United States v. Nydia Tanay Laron Nelson, Case No. 14-2375-mj-Goodman

On March 21, 2014, Pamela Rhim-Grant, 40, and Eugene Moss, 33, both of Miami, were charged by information in a scheme to steal identities for the purpose of conducting stolen identity fraud.

On April 1, 2014, Nydia Tanay Laron Nelson, 30, of Miami, was charged by criminal complaint in connection with the same scheme.

According to the criminal complaint, the defendants conspired to steal the identities of Miami-Dade Public Schools students by exploiting Rhim-Grant’s access to the student information computer database as a food service manager at Horace Mann Middle School.  Over the course of more than a year approximately 400 student identities were stolen from across the Miami-Dade County Public Schools district, resulting in numerous fraudulent tax returns.

The information and complaint charge the defendants with conspiracy to commit computer fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI, IRS-CI, and the Miami-Dade Schools Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Maderal.

“Criminals all over South Florida are turning to computers to make an easy buck at the public’s expense,” said George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami. “Identity theft, the fastest growing crime here, is as easy as one, two, three. One, criminals steal someone’s name and social security number; two, they use that identity to file a fraudulent tax return on line; and three, they collect the refund check. Repeat thousands of times. Don’t become a victim, learn how you can protect your personal identifying information from these thieves at FBI.GOV or FTC.GOV.”

2.   United States v. Marlon Maikel Palacios, Case No. 14-20121-Cr-Cooke

On February 28, 2014, Marlon Maikel Palacios, 38, of North Miami, was charged in a twelve count indictment for his participation in a conspiracy to defraud the government and mail theft.

According to the indictment, the defendant, a former mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, provided to his co-conspirators addresses on his mail routes used with filing false tax returns with the IRS, receiving IRS correspondence, and tax refund checks. The defendant would then identify and pull the IRS correspondence and refund checks, for which the defendant would be paid. With the IRS correspondence, the defendant’s co-conspirators would file false, fictitious, and fraudulent federal income tax returns and thereafter claim refunds to which they were not entitled from the IRS.

The indictment charges the defendant with conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to federal income tax refunds and theft of mail by a postal employee.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the USPS-OIG, USPIS, ICE-HSI, and IRS-CI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andy R. Camacho.

“U.S. Postal Service employees are honest, hardworking, and trustworthy, but when a Postal Service employee engages in criminal activity, our Special Agents will investigate those matters vigorously, as we did in this case,” says Max Eamiguel, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General.

3.   United States v. Rodelyn Lamour and Nestor Armando Herrera, Case No. 14-20169-Cr-Martinez

On March 14, 2014, Rodelyn Lamour, 26, and Nestor Armando Ficquire Herrera, 22, of Miami, were charged in a seven count indictment for their participation in a conspiracy to steal mail and a stolen identity tax refund scheme.

According to the indictment, the defendants used a stolen postal service key to open various apartment complex mailboxes and steal mail containing debit cards. The debit cards contained refunds from fraudulent federal income tax returns filed using stolen identities. The defendants then used the stolen debit cards to obtain cash, without the knowledge or authorization of the identity theft victims. The intended loss to the IRS was approximately $39,000.

The indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy, theft of mail, use of a postal service key, unauthorized use of personal identification information, and aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of USPIS. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Vanessa Snyder.

Ronald Verrochio, Inspector in Charge for Postal Inspection Service stated, “Tax return fraud directly affects millions of Americans each year and indirectly affects every tax payer throughout the country, we are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to combat this problem.”

4.   United States v. Paul Evans Auguste, Case No. 14-80087-Cr-Scola

On February 12, 2014, Paul Evans Auguste, 30, of Miami, was charged in a seven-count indictment for his participation in a stolen identity tax refund scheme.

According to the criminal complaint, Auguste sold approximately 260 stolen identities to an undercover law enforcement officer and stated that he could provide the undercover law enforcement officer any types of identities he would want, including those of children and the elderly.  Auguste also stated his intention to conduct tax fraud with the multitude of stolen identities he maintained at his residence. Law enforcement obtained a federal search warrant for Auguste’s residence which revealed an additional 1,200 stolen identities in his possession.

The defendant was charged with access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of ICE-HSI and IRS-CI.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Maderal.

5.   United States v. Freddie Howard, Case No. 14-60068-Cr-Rosenbaum

On April 1, 2014, Freddie Howard, 56, of Davie, was charged in a one-count information in a stolen identity refund fraud scheme that involved the submission of approximately $22 million in fraudulent refund claims.

According to the information, Howard operated a tax preparation business called QTS1, Inc. (Quality Tax Service) in Broward County. Howard prepared false and fraudulent tax returns using the identity information of willing participants and stolen identity information. Howard used false and fictitious income and withholding tax information on the returns submitted to the IRS to justify fraudulent large-dollar refund requests. The requested refund amounts generally ranged from $60,000 to $1,400,000, and Howard typically requested payment of these refunds via U.S. Treasury tax refund check. To conceal his identity, Howard submitted the tax returns to the IRS by mail and did not include preparer information. Howard also blocked out the tax preparer software information, and used other people to contact the IRS to inquire about the status of the fraudulent returns.

According to the information, Freddie Howard submitted over $22 million in false and fraudulent tax refund claims to the IRS. The IRS paid approximately $4.5 million on these refund requests.

The defendant was charged with access device fraud and identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Strike Force, with special commendation to the FBI and IRS-CI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael N. Berger.

IRS Special Agent in Charge José A. Gonzalez stated, “Today’s announcement should send a message to those who might consider disguising themselves as legitimate tax return preparers or Electronic Filing Identification Number (EFIN) holders for the purpose of submitting false claims with the IRS. Protecting the integrity of our U.S. tax system is essential, therefore, those who chose to corrupt this system will be investigated and brought to justice, regardless of their level of participation in the fraud.”

6.   United States v. Anthony A. PaceJr., et al., Case No. 14-20101-Cr-Moore/Torres

On February 18, 2014, Anthony A. PaceJr., 29, Brandon A. Terry, 29, Derel L. Henry, 39, and Rosa Johnson, 26, all of Miami, were charged in a twenty-three count indictment for their participation in a $3.3 million stolen identity tax refund scheme.

According to the indictment, the defendants obtained personal identifying information, including names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers, of hundreds of identity theft victims, for use in this identity theft tax fraud scheme. The defendants used this stolen personal identity information, including personal identity information of former and current inmates of the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Program, to file false and fraudulent federal income tax returns without their victims’ knowledge and authorization. Based on Internet Protocal data and a unique tax filing number issued by the IRS called an EFIN, each of the defendants filed false and fraudulent tax returns using stolen identities and directed the IRS to deposit the funds into bank accounts and onto debit cards accessible to the members of the scheme.

According to disclosures at bond hearings, Anthony A. Pace, Jr. was employed as a correctional officer with the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Program. False and fraudulent tax returns were filed in the names of former and current prisoners using an EFIN associated with defendant Pace. These same tax filings directed payment of the illicit tax refund proceeds into accounts controlled by Pace and Johnson. ATM video reveals that Pace was withdrawing funds from the accounts into which the illicit funds were deposited.

The indictment charges all of the defendants with conspiracy to make false claims, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ‘ 286 and aggravated identity theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ‘ 1028A, defendants Brandon Terry and Derel Henry with access device fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ‘ 1029, and defendants Anthony Pace and Rosa Johnson with theft of government property, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ‘ 641.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI, FBI and USSS. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter A. Forand.

7.   United States v. Judes Stanley Celestin, Case No. 13-60243-Cr-Scola

On September 27, 2013, Judes Stanely Celestin, 36, of Hallandale Beach, was charged in a sixteen-count indictment in a stolen identity refund fraud scheme that resulted in the submission of approximately $1 million in fraudulent refund claims.

According to the indictment, Celestin set up Florida corporations (JC Easy Tax and Taxes on Time) with himself as the president and then opened up bank accounts at numerous different banks from 2010 through 2012 in the name of these corporations. Celestin subsequently caused false and fraudulent tax returns to be filed with the IRS in the names of individuals without these individuals’ knowledge or authority. In total, Celestin caused approximately $1 million dollars in tax refund monies to be direct deposited to these bank accounts and related bank accounts from 2010 through 2012 and then withdrew the money for his own personal use.

The defendant was charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Strike Force, with special commendation to IRS-CI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael N. Berger.

8.   United States v. Karl Moltimer, Case No. 14-20117-Cr-Altonaga

On February 27, 2014, Karl Moltimer, 34, of Miami, was charged in a fourteen-count indictment in a stolen identity tax refund fraud scheme that resulted in the submission of over $1 million in fraudulent refund claims.

According to the indictment, Moltimer obtained EFIN numbers that permitted him to file tax returns in the names of other persons. Moltimer opened bank accounts for himself and his business name. Moltimer, through his EFINs, caused false and fraudulent tax returns seeking refunds to be filed with the IRS using stolen individuals’ personal identity information. Moltimer caused the fraudulently obtained tax refunds to be either deposited into bank accounts controlled by him, paid via refund anticipation checks controlled by him, or paid via pre-paid debit cards controlled by him. Moltimer caused over one million dollars in false and fraudulent tax refund claims to be submitted to the IRS from 2009 through 2012 through his EFINs.

The defendant was charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Strike Force, with special commendation to IRS-CI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael N. Berger.

9.   United States v. Marlon Hamilton, Case No. 14-20175-Cr-Moreno

On March 18, 2014, Marlon Hamilton, 40, of Hialeah, was charged in a six count indictment for his participation in a stolen identity tax refund scheme.

According to the indictment, the defendant obtained and sold the personal identifying information of numerous identity theft victims, including their names, dates of birth, and social security numbers, to an individual who intended to utilize the information to electronically file false, fictitious, and fraudulent federal income tax returns without the knowledge or authorization of the identity theft victims, and thereafter claim refunds to which they were not entitled from the IRS. The intended loss to the IRS was approximately $190,000. The indictment charges the defendant with unauthorized possession of personal identification information and aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Vanessa Snyder.

10.               United States v. Marcus Braxton, Case No. 14-20174-Cr-Ungaro

On March 18, 2014, Marcus Braxton, 29, of Plantation, was charged in a six count indictment for his participation in a stolen identity tax refund scheme.

According to the indictment, the defendant obtained and sold the personal identifying information of numerous identity theft victims, including their names, dates of birth, and social security numbers, to an individual who intended to utilize the information to electronically file false, fictitious, and fraudulent federal income tax returns without the knowledge or authorization of the identity theft victims, and thereafter claim refunds to which they were not entitled from the IRS. The intended loss to the IRS was approximately $58,500.

The indictment charges the defendant with unauthorized possession of personal identification information and aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Vanessa Snyder.

11.               United States v. Richard Anthony Siler, Case No. 14-20116-Cr-Williams

On February 27, 2014, Richard Anthony Siler, 50, of Hollywood, was charged in a nine-count indictment in a stolen identity refund fraud scheme that involved the sale of over 5,000 people’s identities.

According to the indictment and other documents filed in court, Siler discussed selling approximately 10,000 to 15,000 identities to a confidential source who told Siler that the identities would be used to file taxes. Siler indicated to the confidential source that these identities were “never revealed before.” Siler discussed selling the 10,000 to 15,000 identities to the confidential source for approximately $6,200. On February 14, 2014, an FBI controlled e-mail account received an e-mail from Richard Siler containing approximately 5,200 individuals’ personal identifying information that appeared to be patients. On that same date, the confidential source provided Siler with $6,200 in currency and Siler was arrested.

The defendant was charged with access device fraud and identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Strike Force, with special commendation to the FBI and IRS-CI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael N. Berger.

12.               United States v. Giovanni Francois Noel, Case No. 14-20198-Cr-Moore

On March 28, 2014, Giovanni Francois Noel, 24, of North Miami Beach, was charged in an eight count indictment for his participation in an identity theft tax refund scheme.

According to the indictment, the defendant possessed the social security numbers of at least fifteen individuals. The indictment also alleges that the defendant stole the means of identification, specifically, the name and date of birth, of seven individuals.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Strike Force, with special commendation to the IRS-CI and the NMBPD. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John R. Byrne.

U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Paula Reid added, “Once again, the U.S. Secret Service is glad to be an integral part of combatting this massive fraudulent scheme that is plaguing South Florida. Together, we will continue to identify and penalize those who misuse our government systems with no regard to the financial and unjust impacts they cause on others.”

13.               United States v. Wallens B. Alcime, Case No. 14-02372-mj-Goodman

On April 1, 2014, Wallens B. Alcime, 26, of Miami, was charged by criminal complaint for his participation in a stolen identity tax refund scheme.

According to the criminal complaint, a confidential source informed law enforcement that Alcime was using the mailing addresses of accomplices to receive stolen identity tax refunds deposited onto pre-paid debit cards. A controlled delivery was arranged where Alcime took possession of a debit card loaded with stolen identity tax refunds while under law enforcement surveillance. Alcime was later captured on surveillance video making cash withdrawals from the debit card.

The defendant was charged with access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and IRS-CI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Maderal.

14.               United States v. Steven Toussaintet al., Case No. 14-20161-Cr-Martinez

On March 14, 2014, Steven Toussaint, 32, and Emmanuel Alphonse, 28, both of Miami, were charged by indictment in a scheme to launder money from stolen identity tax refund fraud.

According to the indictment, the defendants conspired to conduct financial transactions the purpose of which was to conceal the proceeds of theft from the government. Each defendant is also charged with ten counts of money laundering connected to individual money orders cashed on various dates alleged in the indictment.

The complaint charges the defendants with conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of USPIS and IRS-CI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Maderal.

15.               United States v. Mark Anthony Dacres, Jr., Case No. 14-20204-Cr-Ungaro

On April 1, 2014, Mark Anthony DacresJr., 30, of Homestead, was charged in a seven-count indictment for identity theft in connection with his unauthorized possession of at least fifteen social security numbers belonging to other individuals. Dacres was found with over 1,700 names, dates of birth and social security numbers of other individuals.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Strike Force, with special commendation to IRS-CI and USSS. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gera Peoples.

16.               United States v. Providencia Llanos, Case No. 14-20205-Cr-Lenard

On April 1, 2014, Providencia Llanosa/k/a “Providensia Llanos,” a/k/a “Providencia Allison,” 36, of Miami Gardens was charged in a seven-count indictment for identity theft in connection with her unauthorized possession of at least fifteen social security numbers belonging to other individuals. Llanos was found with over 3,000 names, dates of birth and social security numbers of other individuals.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Strike Force, with special commendation to IRS-CI and USSS. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gera Peoples.

17.               United States v. Stevens Nore, Case No. 14-14016-Cr-Middlebrooks

On March 24, 2014, Stevens Nore, 35, of Port St. Lucie, was charged in a twenty-eight count indictment for his participation in tax fraud and identity theft schemes.

According to the indictment, from June 11, 2009 through April 2012, Nore owned and operated Fraternity Tax and Services, a tax return preparation business located in Fort Pierce. Nore prepared and submitted Individual Tax Returns (Forms 1040), with accompanying schedules, to the IRS on behalf of taxpayers claiming false deductions and credits for tax years 2009 to 2011. Nore also filed false tax returns for 2010 and 2011 by falsely stating the amount of gross receipts and sales on Schedule C forms. The defendant stole three tax refunds totaling $26,349.30 to which he was not entitled, and used the identity of two individuals without their permission.

Nore was charged with twenty-one counts of preparing false tax returns, two counts of filing false tax returns, three counts of theft of public money, and two counts of aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Shaniek Maynard.

18.               United States v. Rony Maurival, Case No. 14-14014-Cr-Middlebrooks

On March 24, 2014, Rony Maurical, 38, of Port St. Lucie, was charged in fifty-two count indictment for his participation in tax fraud and identity theft schemes.

According to the indictment, from July 3, 2008 through March 23, 2012, Maurival owned and operated RJ’s Tax & Services, a tax return preparation business located in Fort Pierce. Maurival prepared and submitted Individual Tax Returns (Forms 1040), with accompanying schedules, to the IRS on behalf of taxpayers claiming false deductions and credits for tax years 2008 to 2011. Maurival also filed false tax returns for 2009 and 2010 by falsely claiming Head of Household and falsely stating Schedule C income, gross receipts, and sales. The defendant stole three tax refunds totaling $3,292 to which he was not entitled, and used the identity of three individuals without their permission.

Maurival was charged with forty-four counts of preparing false tax returns, two counts of filing false tax returns, three counts of theft of public money, and three counts of aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell R. Killinger.

Alysa D. Erichs, Special Agent in Charge for ICE-HSI stated, “Homeland Security Investigations utilizes its vast authorities to work with their partners to disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations involved in tax refund fraud schemes and other financial violations that affect our citizens and economy.”

If convicted, the defendants face a possible maximum statutory sentence of twenty years in prison for each count of wire fraud; ten years in prison for conspiracy to make false claims against the United States; five to fifteen years in prison for access device fraud; ten years in prison for stealing government funds; and two years in prison consecutive to any other term for aggravated identity theft.

An indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Target data breach: credit monitoring will not protect you from identity theft


William E. Lewis Jr, Target Data Breach

Target data breach

Attention Target shoppers. Expect more, pay less has brought new meaning as an offer of free credit monitoring may not be enough to prevent identity theft, according to Consumer Reports. The offer of “free” credit monitoring may also give shoppers a false sense of security into believing they are totally protected from identity theft.

Following the massive security breach in December that impacted more than 110 million customers, Target offered “peace of mind” to customers worried about identity theft by providing a free credit monitoring service through one of the nation’s largest credit reporting agencies, Experian.

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to enroll in the Target credit monitoring program.

“The problem is that each of the three major credit bureaus — EquifaxTransUnion, and Experian — can collect different information. So unless you’re checking all of them, you can miss someone trying to steal your identity and open new credit,” said Margot Gilman of Consumer Reports.

Target customers can register for the service — provided by Experian, regardless of whether they have been personally affected by the theft of customer data records at the discount store chain.

The credit monitoring service offered by Experian is an ongoing review of your current credit history. If an identity thief opens a new account using your name and personal information, you will receive an alert by email or text message. What the free credit monitoring service through Experian does not do is to monitor transactions — the actual, day-to-day purchases made on your credit and debit cards. That is something you must do yourself.

The Target data breach allegedly involves the use of active account information and not the opening of new accounts.

“So if I understand this correctly, I’m not protected from identity theft at all,” Bina Fink Kohl, herself an identity theft victim and Target shopper, said. “Sounds like another possible scam. Why would I give my information back to the very company that lost it to start with?”

To protect yourself from new accounts being opened without your permission, Gilman suggests placing a security freeze on their credit profile.

“A security freeze is one of the best protections,” Gilman said. “It blocks access to your credit information and makes it more difficult for a crook to open a new account under your name.”

There is a negative side to a total security freeze, though. Any inquiry into your credit history will be totally blocked, meaning an application for credit, goods, benefits, services and/or employment can be delayed or even denied. The credit freeze remains in place until the consumer removes it for a specific purpose or time frame.

More than 110 million shoppers have been impacted by the Target data breach. Each of them has been offered the free credit monitoring service for 12 months. But — according to Consumer Reports — the “free” service is riddled with defects and enticements.

  • Once consumers enroll in the “free” credit monitoring service, they are enticed with an offer to purchase an Equifax and TransUnion credit report for up to $74 more to supplement the free report provided by Experian. “An Experian ad … pitched me to buy my ‘total credit picture. Why wait? View all three of your credit reports and scores now’ for $14.95.”
  • The type of free credit monitoring offered by Target monitors only one credit reporting agency — Experian — and not the credit history files maintained by Equifax and TransUnion. This a huge disadvantage, as the data reported from the three major credit bureaus can differ significantly across the country.
  • The type of free credit monitoring offered by Target is “old school” as it monitors new account activity and inquiries rather than unauthorized charges to existing accounts. These services are already available through most credit and debit card issuers, especially the major banks and financial institutions.
  • Some of the Experian ads exploit consumers who are ignorant of their rights under federal law. For instance, consumer protection laws already allow identity theft or potential identity theft victims to place a free 90-day fraud alert on their credit report. Placement of the 90-day fraud alert will allow consumers to obtain their credit reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion absolutely free.

“I’m alarmed that Target is providing me with a credit monitoring service that may not fully protect my good name and reputation within the community,” said Remington Longstreth, a frequent Target shopper. “When I first learned of the offer, I immediately signed up. Now I’m left wondering if that was the right thing to do.”

In addition to or as an alternative to the Target credit monitoring service offered by Experian, impacted consumers may protect themselves from potential identity theft.

Periodically review your credit report

By keeping close tabs on your credit report at EquifaxExperian and TransUnion credit reporting agencies, you can detect signs of identity theft early. If you find an account not opened by you and have identified it as fraudulent, enter a dispute directly with the creditor as well as with the credit reporting agencies. You may be required to provide them with a valid police report and FTC Affidavit of Identity Theft.

You can obtain a free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com or 877-322-8228.

Place a 90-day fraud alert on your credit report

Contact each of the credit reporting agencies and request a 90-day initial fraud alert. Not only will this trigger a free credit report but will advise potential creditors to investigate any application prior to issuing credit or providing services.

Equifax can be contacted at 800-525-6285, Experian at 888-397-3742 and TransUnion at 800-916-8800. Be sure to renew the alert every three months.

Freeze your credit report

Without access to your credit report, identity thieves are frozen in their tracks as creditors will not have access to your credit history. In many states, you are entitled to temporarily “freeze” access to your credit profile without cost if you are over 65 years of age or are a verified victim of identity theft. All others may be required to pay a small fee. Without access to your credit report, no lender will issue credit in your name.

Stop unsolicited credit card or insurance offers

Opting out of pre-screened approval offers for credit or insurance at www.optoutprescreen.com or 888-5OPT-OUT will stop most unsolicited applications and reduce the incidence of identity theft. Opting out refers to the process of removing your name, address and personal identifiers from lists supplied by the Equifax, Experian, TransUnion and Innovis credit reporting agencies to be used for preapproved/prescreened offers of credit or insurance.

“As a single mother, I can hardly afford to lose access to my debit and credit cards let alone become a victim of identity theft,” Target shopper Marina Sweat explained. “I used to shop at Target all the time and although I now shop at Walmart, I’m not any less a target. I’m not happy with the way this whole data breach situation is being handled.”

George Zimmerman ignores wife in divorce proceeding


George Zimmerman ignores wife in divorce proceeding

George Zimmerman ignores wife in divorce proceeding

Claiming that George Zimmerman – the Florida man acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin – has not responded to a divorce petition filed last September, his estranged wife Shellie Zimmerman late Tuesday requested a Seminole County court judge to grant a default motion against him, according to the ABA Journal.

Zimmerman, the former Neighborhood Watch volunteer who was acquitted last year of murdering Martin, successfully evaded service of process for several months following the September 5th petition filing. He was eventually served on December 18th, when Zimmerman was jailed on allegations of breaking a table and pointing a shotgun at his then girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe.

Kicking Scheibe out of her home, Zimmerman reportedly used furniture to prevent the door of the house from being opened by responding sheriff’s deputies, but did not resist arrest.

The charges against Zimmerman were subsequently dismissed when Scheibe refused to prosecute.

In Florida, the law requires that an individual being sued respond within 20 days of personal service upon them. Not having responded in a timely manner, Shellie Zimmerman’s lawyer entered a clerk’s default on January 13th. She has now requested that the court enter a final judgment of dissolution in the matter.

According to Shellie Zimmerman, she claims $13,000 in assets and $104,000 in debts. There are no children between the couple or real estate owned and neither party are in the military. While each party will retain their personal property, Shellie Zimmerman has asked for ownership of their two dogs.

While ignoring the divorce filing, George Zimmerman – in a financial affidavit filed with the court following his domestic violence arrest – reported approximately $2.5 million in debt. Reportedly that amount is what he owes lawyers Mark O’Mara and Don West for successfully defending him in the murder trial.

In a proceeding related to the Trayvon Martin case, Shellie Zimmerman pled guilty to a misdemeanor perjury charge last August in a deal carrying a sentence of one year probation. In that case, prosecutors discovered recorded telephone calls from the Seminole County jail between Shellie and George Zimmerman where they spoke in code conspiring to hide more than $100,000 that had been donated by online supporters.

Days after the phone call, she testified via teleconference that she and George Zimmerman were broke.

____________________________

Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

 

Target data breach – free credit monitoring and identity theft insurance


William E. Lewis Jr, Target Data Breach

Target data breach results in free credit monitoring for all customers

Expect more, pay less has brought new meaning as Target announced this week how shoppers can enroll in a free credit monitoring and identity theft protection service in the wake of a massive data heist.

According to a specially dedicated website, the retailer will offer customers the service for one year.

Target customers can register for the service — regardless whether they have been personally affected by the theft of customer data records at the discount store chain.

Step-by-step instructions on how to enroll in the Target credit monitoring program.

The announcement comes after Target revealed last week that the massive security breach may have affected up to 110 million of its customers during the holiday shopping season and included more types of confidential information than previously disclosed.

Target had previously reported that about 40 million credit and debit cards may have been affected by the breach that occurred between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15.

“I know that it is frustrating for our guests to learn that this information was taken and we are truly sorry they are having to endure this,” stated Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and chief executive officer for Target in a written statement. “I also want our guests to know that understanding and sharing the facts related to this incident is important to me and the entire Target team.”

While continuing to investigate, Target now indicates that an additional 70 million customers were impacted by the theft of their names, phone numbers, and email and mailing addresses. Some of the information stolen in the data breach belonged to customers who shopped before the holiday season.

“They all claim to care about protecting us from identity theft, but their very similar privacy policies don’t appear to support these claims,” stated Denise Richardson, herself a victim of identity theft and author of “Give Me Back My Credit.” “It’s difficult to believe they are as interested in protecting our personal info as they are in protecting their business model in an ecosystem comprised of undisclosed partners, affiliates, vendors, alliances, resellers and contractors who, along with any other undisclosed third party they warn they buy, sell or share our data with.”

Surpassing an incident uncovered in 2007 that saw more than 45 million credit and debit cards stolen from Marshalls and T.J. Maxx, the Target data breach is the largest reported ever for a retailer.

“Within a day of enrolling in the credit monitoring service, I received details to check my credit,” Remington Longstreth, a frequent Target shopper told Examiner. “I’m going to use this service to supplement what I already have to protect my good name and reputation in the community.”

In addition to the Target credit monitoring service, impacted customers may also protect themselves from potential identity theft.

Periodically review your credit report

By keeping close tabs on your credit report, you can detect signs of identity theft early. If you find an account not opened by you and have identified it as fraudulent, enter a dispute directly with the creditor as well as with the credit reporting agencies of EquifaxExperian and TransUnion.

You can obtain a free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com or 877-322-8228.

Place a 90-day initial fraud alert on your credit report

Contact the credit reporting agencies and request a 90-day initial fraud alert on your credit report. Not only will this trigger a free credit report but will advise potential creditors to investigate any application prior to issuing credit, goods, benefits and/or services.

Equifax can be contacted at 800-525-6285, Experian at 888-397-3742 and Trans Union at 800-916-8800. Be sure to renew the alert every three months.

Freeze your credit report

Identity thieves are frozen in their tracks without access to your credit report as potential creditors will not have access to your credit history. In most states, you are entitled to temporarily “freeze” access to your credit profile without cost if you are over 65 years of age or are a verified victim of identity theft. All others may be required to pay a small fee. Without access to your credit report, a responsible lender will not issue credit.

Stop unsolicited credit card offers

Opting out at www.optoutprescreen.com or 888-5OPT-OUT will stop most unsolicited pre-approved applications and reduce the incidence of identity theft. Opting out refers to the process of removing your name and address from lists supplied by the Equifax, Experian, Trans Union and Innovis credit reporting agencies to be used for firm (preapproved/ prescreened) offers of credit or insurance.

“Freezing our credit and keeping a vigilant eye on our accounts ourselves continues to be the only way we have any control over our data, at least until there is far more transparency and a lot less sharing of data,” concluded Richardson.

Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

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