It’s nice to see the good guys score a win in the battle against identity theft. In late August, Micheline Eppolito, 29, of Jensen Beach, Florida was sentenced to 30 months in prison for her role in an identity fraud scheme. The ease with which Eppolito stole identifying information and her compensation for that act are deeply concerning.
Eppolito worked at Treasure Coast Lexus auto dealership in Fort Pierce, Florida. According to Wifredo Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, she passed information about customers and their Social Security numbers (SSN) to an identity thief for a pittance.
“Eppolito accessed and printed 44 automobile printouts, from a database shared by automobile dealerships, which contained 68 customers’ personal identifying information from a work computer located in her office. The defendant then sold the printouts to Patrick J. Ward,” Ferrer said.
The payoff for compromising 68 identities? Ward paid Eppolito in drugs—$80 worth of oxycodone pills—for the documents. That’s just over $1 per record. Ward was sentenced earlier this year to 70 months in jail.
Florida is currently the epicenter of tax refund-related identity theft, so Ferrer’s office has been pretty busy in recent years hunting down identity thieves. Two days after Eppolito’s sentencing, Junior Jean Baptiste, 36 of North Miami, Florida, was convicted of cashing over $11 million in fraudulent tax return checks as part of another identity theft ring.
Baptiste was convicted of conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, possession of five or more false identification documents, theft of government money, and aggravated identity theft. He will be sentenced next month and faces up to 20 years in prison.
According to government agents, Baptiste’s check cashing service cashed checks the government said had been issued “in the names of dead people, disabled people, and other people who do not typically file tax returns.”