HAMMOND | The alleged scheme: Get individuals' personal and financial information, add your name to their bank accounts as an authorized user and cash checks and make purchases on someone else's dime.
At least four suspects were arrested Monday in Hammond for their alleged involvement in the above ruse, according to federal court records unsealed this week.
Shana King, 24, of Gary, and Alnese Frazier, 21, Diontria Frazier, 27, and Joniette Davis, 26, all of Indianapolis, walked out of court this week on a $20,000 surety bond. If they do not show up for their arraignment Tuesday, they will owe the government the bond money.
The national group of eight also includes Robert Sanders, 21, of Gary; Lauren Price, 21, of Chesterton; Amber Fields, 21, of Milwaukee; and Willie J. Harris, 21, of Atlanta, according to the indictment.
Over a span of three years beginning in 2007, the group allegedly made about $200,000. Local banks that were victims of the scheme include Harris Bank locations in Griffith and Munster and JP Morgan Chase Bank locations in Gary, Merrillville, Munster and Schererville, according to court documents.
Indianapolis-based attorney Vernon Lorenz Jr. is representing King, of Gary. He said he hoped the outcome of the case would be just.
"She's a great person and a great mom," Lorenz said. "We're just trying to get her through this thing in one piece."
Attorneys for the other defendants were unavailable for comment.
The fraud ring allegedly took over financial accounts of victims in at least 21 states between California and Vermont. The indictment alleges the suspects cashed unauthorized convenience checks in Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Georgia, as well as bought gift cards, money orders and other goods with more than 50 credit cards obtained through the fraud scheme. Purchased items were sent to addresses in Gary, Indianapolis and Georgia, according to court records.
The U.S. attorney's office in a news release emphasized that "an indictment is merely an allegation and that all persons charged are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court."