A federal jury in South Carolina convicted a woman last week of charges relating to a multistate identity theft and fraud ring she was running with her son, who previously pleaded guilty to a wire and bank fraud conspiracy.
Quinae Shamyra Stephens, 41, of Douglasville, Georgia, was arrested in August 2021 by the Latta Police Department.
Stephens and her 23-year-old son, Deandre Allen Copes, were apprehended after police received a report of a “suspicious vehicle” outside a Family Dollar store, according to an affidavit filed in federal court by a U.S. Secret Service special agent who investigated the case.
The mother and son were in a UHaul that was later found to have been stolen out of Clementine, New Jersey.
They were traveling from New Jersey to Florida. While in Latta, they drew suspicious because they were going back and forth from a bank to a local retail store.
Officers searched the vehicle and found five tablets of fentanyl and a Taurus G2C 9mm handgun with 10 rounds of ammunition in the magazine and one round in the chamber. Stephens, a convicted felon, was prohibited from having a gun.
According to the affidavit the following items were recovered from the stolen van:
- An printer/copier with a sheet of blank check stock paper on the copier glass
- A box of recently opened check stock paper and a sales receipt showing the paper was purchased days earlier in New Jersey.
- A sheet of check stock paper that was used to print a test page.
- Numerous counterfeit and stolen driver’s licenses from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Georgia. Three of the driver’s licenses had Stephens’ picture with fake information on them.
- Two counterfeit business/payroll checks made payable to Stephens.
- 10 re-encoded credit and debit card “access devices.” The cards had Stephens’ and Copes’ names on them but the magnetic strips of the cards contained different account numbers than what was embossed on the front of the cards.
- An electronic “access device skimmer,” which is used to “read and re-encode the magnetic strips” of cards.
- Four unopened packages of naloxone mouth strips.
The special agent, who is based out of Columbia, said he learned that Stephens had used the check printer to cash checks at Kroger, Publix, Food Lion and a check cashing business.
According to a news release from U.S. Attorney Corey F. Ellis, the two also had debit and credit cards in other people’s names.1-1
“Further forensics investigation by the Secret Service revealed that Stephens would download instructional material from the dark web related to credit card fraud and identity theft, and used software form the dark web to procure personally identifiable information,” the release stated.
A laptop found in the vehicle also contained “instructional material and files that could be used to create fake banking websites to steal account information.”
According the the news release, more than 120 exhibits were entered into evidence during the trial, and more than a dozen witnesses and victims travelled from California, Minnesota, New Jersey, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina to testify.
“The jury ultimately convicted Stephens on all six charges brought against her, including conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, credit card fraud, identity theft, aggravated identity theft, interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle, and felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.”
United States District Judge Sherri A. Lydon presided over the trial and will sentence Stephens and her son.
The mother and son each face a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison, and a fine of $1,000,000, for conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud. Stephens also faces a mandatory two-year consecutive sentence for aggravated identity theft.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service, Latta Police Department, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Derek A. Shoemake and Everett McMillian prosecuted the case.
“Identity theft is a crime that impacts every American and can create lifelong victims. This office will vigorously prosecute criminals who steal from hardworking taxpayers to line their own pockets,” Ellis said. “Stephens enlisted her son in a sophisticated scheme that involved using the dark web, among other resources, to steal the identities and credit card information of numerous individuals across the country.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Liz Farrell is the new executive editor at FITSNews. She was named 2018’s top columnist in the state by South Carolina Press Association and is back after taking a nearly two-year break from corporate journalism to reclaim her soul. Email her at email@example.com or tweet her @ElizFarrell.
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