Jet-setting Identity theft "creeper" sent to federal prison

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Antione  L. Lawrence, a man described by government prosecutors as the ringleader of a  new breed of jet-setting identity thieves known as  "creepers," a team of sophisticated thieves that move from city to city sneaking into business offices across the country and making off with checks, credit cards and other personal information that they then turn into quick cash -lots of it.

Lawrence, nicknamed "Tony Montana" after the Al Pacino character in "Scarface" often appearing in designer suits and Rolex watches, was the seventh member of the team to be sentenced in federal court -- nine were indicted -- with another 10 associates convicted in state courts. Lawrence, was sentenced to eight years in federal prison and ordered to pay his victims more than $600,000 in restitution.

Prosecutors claim that from 2001 to 2007, the team traveled from Indianapolis to Hawaii, targeting an array of doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants and insurance company offices because they were more likely to keep petty cash, corporate credit cards or prescription drugs on hand.


According to federal prosecutors, the team posted lookouts and communicated with two-way radios or prepaid cell phones. They picked locks or walked into offices at the end of work days, sometimes making off with master keys or employees' key cards They often struck on Friday nights, which gave them time to cash stolen checks on Saturdays, when the businesses were closed.

The thieves were so successful at avoiding detection, according to prosecutors, that several office cleaning crews were falsely accused of their misdeeds and lost their jobs.

The fruits of the team's crimes included pearls, antique watches, a gold tennis bracelet, computer and printer gear, guns and ammo, a flat-screen TV, collector stamps and sports gear autographed by Michael Jordan, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and the 1990 Portland Trail Blazers.

The crimes ought to be a cautionary tale for all office employees, said Dwight C. Holton, the U.S. attorney for Oregon. They should never keep personal information at work, unless it's in a safe, because crews like Lawrence's can find and exploit it.

Investigators proved that Lawrence's team made off with $688,623 -- but prosecutors said that's probably a fraction of the total take.
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