Richfield Man Faces Federal Charges for Alleged Involvement in Identity Theft Ring
Donyea Terrell Collins, 26, faces federal charges for his alleged role in an identity-theft ring that the feds say is responsible for the theft of more than $2 million from financial institutions and retail businesses.
A 26-year-old Richfield man was federal indicted for his alleged role in an identity-theft ring that the feds say is responsible for the loss of more than $2 million from financial institutions and retail businesses in at least than 14 states.
A superseding indictment, which was unsealed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis Friday, charges Donyea Terrell Collins with one count each of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. The indictment also outlines what the U.S. Attorney’s Office called a complex plot to defraud banks and retail businesses, primarily in the Midwest.
A superseding indictment is a “follow-up indictment,” in which the government adds new charges or defendants or deletes certain charges from the previous indictment, said Jeanne Cooney, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office.
In this case, the original indictment was filed on Dec. 5, and charged Steven Lavell Maxwell, 43, of Minneapolis alone with a single count of aggravated identity theft, a charge to which he pleaded not guilty to about a week later.
The superseding indictment adds 11 new defendants to the case, and charges Maxwell with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and money laundering.
The superseding indictment, originally filed on Jan. 19, was unsealed after each of the defendants made their initial appearances in federal court.
According to the superseding indictment:
From 2006 through December 2011, the defendants in the case allegedly worked with one another—and unnamed people—to defraud banks, bank customers and businesses.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office alleges that some of the members of the theft ring were at work when they stole the identification information of other people—and then provided it to co-conspirators who used it to create fake driver’s licenses and identification cards, along with counterfeit checks.
Identification information was stolen through other means as well, including mail theft, vehicle break-ins and business burglaries, the indictment alleges. Some of the information was even reportedly purchased from other criminals.
The fake documents and counterfeit checks were then used by the alleged fraudsters to purchase expensive items and gift cards at retail stores.
Later, but often that same day, after the receipts had been altered, the items were allegedly returned for cash that was divided among those involved in the theft ring.
The false information and fraudulent documentation was also used to open bank accounts or access the existing bank accounts of others, the indictment states.
As part of this scam, those involved allegedly deposited counterfeit checks into the accounts of unknowing individuals, only to withdraw funds from those same accounts a short time later.
To avoid detection, the alleged fraudsters only accessed each bank account a few times before moving on to their next victim.
In addition to Estelle, the following people have been charged in relation to the theft ring:
- Norman Scott Allen, 42, of Minneapolis;
- Frederick Adrianne Hamilton, 56, of Minneapolis;
- Joel Delano Powell III, 19, of Minneapolis;
- Elston Edwards Sharp, 46, of Minneapolis;
- Desmon Desmond Burks, 36, of St. Paul;
- Robin Dawn Finger, 43, St. Paul;
- Russell Raymond Royals, 59, of Cottage Grove;;
- Joel Delano Powell, Jr., 46, of St. Louis Park;
- Derek Charles Estelle, 24, of Stillwater.
Seven others involved in this scam have already been charged via Informations and have pleaded guilty to their respective roles in the operation.
If convicted, conspiracy to commit bank fraud carries a potential maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison. For aggravated identity theft, there is a mandatory minimum penalty of two years in prison for each count convicted.
All sentences are determined by a federal judge, if and when a defendant pleads guilty, or is found guilty by a trial jury.
Because the federal justice system does not have parole, prison sentences imposed are virtually served in their entirety.
This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Internal Revenue Service- Criminal Investigation Division. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen B. Schommer.