DENVER – Colorado Attorney General John W. Suthers today announced six arrests in connection with an ID theft ring responsible for tens of thousands of dollars in losses. An indictment in the case was handed down by the Statewide Grand Jury, with significant involvement from the Boulder County Sherriff’s Office and Boulder District Attorney.
“The plague of identity theft has reached epidemic proportions in the state of Colorado,” commented Attorney General Suthers. “As to the egregiousness of the violations, this case is certainly exceptional. But the tactics of the alleged offenders are as common as the motive behind the crimes: methamphetamine abuse is responsible for a great deal of criminal conduct in Colorado.”
According to the indictment, the six defendants were the principals in an ID theft ring that operated across the Denver Metro Area from approximately March 1 to October 26, 2006. The indictment names 52 victims (17 individuals and 35 businesses) and includes 56 charges, as follows:
- Jessica Prather (DOB 7/22/81) – Violation of the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act (COCCA), COCCA conspiracy, possession of ID theft tools, identity theft (10 counts), criminal impersonation (2 counts), forgery (4 counts), theft (4 counts), and first degree aggravated motor vehicle theft. Prather faces a maximum prison term of 165 years.
- Christopher “Sam Bam” France (DOB 1/21/71) – Violation of COCCA, COCCA conspiracy, possession of ID theft tools, identity theft (2 counts), forgery (2 counts), theft, first and second degree aggravated motor vehicle theft, first degree burglary, and menacing. France faces a maximum prison term of 103 years, six months.
- Christopher Applegate (DOB 7/15/75) – Violation of COCCA, COCCA conspiracy, possession of ID theft tools, identity theft (3 counts), forgery (3 counts), and theft. Applegate faces a maximum prison term of 76 years.
- Brandy Creal (DOB 11/22/81) – COCCA conspiracy, identity theft (3 counts), forgery, (3 counts), and theft (2 counts). Creal faces a maximum prison term of 63 years.
- Allyson Turner (DOB 1/14/82) – Violation of COCCA, COCCA conspiracy, possession of ID theft tools, identity theft, and forgery. Turner faces a maximum prison term of 60 years.
- Brian Nicholson (DOB 7/11/84) – COCCA conspiracy, identity theft, forgery (2 counts), criminal impersonation, and theft. Nicholson faces a maximum prison term of 43 years, six months.
Members of the organization allegedly stole mail from homes throughout the Denver Metro Area, specifically targeting houses around Boulder County. The defendants are also alleged to have broken-in to several vehicles in open garages to steal driver’s licenses.
It is believed the stolen documents were taken to a Westminster home where the defendants allegedly converted the victims’ personal identifying information into fraudulent Colorado driver’s licenses and checks. The fraudulent documents were purportedly used to pass fraudulent checks at 35 different businesses around the Denver Metro Area.
In late 2006, authorities received information that the Westminster residence contained a methamphetamine lab. On October 25, while conducting surveillance on the house, members of the North Metro Drug Task Force observed one of the suspects leaving the house in a stolen vehicle. A high-speed chase ensued, culminating when the suspect crashed into a police car and another vehicle. Following the crash, the suspect fled the stolen car and was able to elude authorities on foot.
On October 26, Task Force members executed a search warrant on the residence. The search yielded numerous garbage bags of stolen mail and forged documents, as well as computer equipment used to forge driver’s licenses and checks.
The fourteen month investigation, codenamed “Operation White Rhino,” was coordinated by the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office and the United State Postal Inspection Service. The cases will be filed in Boulder District Court and prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office and the Boulder District Attorney’s Office. It should be noted, any indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until found guilty.
Several agencies cooperated during the investigation, including the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, the Boulder Police Department, the Denver Police Department, the Lakeside Police Department, the Lakewood Police Department, North Metro Drug Task Force, the Thornton Police Department, and the Westminster Police Department.