HAMMOND — Three people with ties to Northwest Indiana have entered guilty pleas in U.S. District Court to their roles in a four-year fraud scheme that preyed on victims in at least 15 states and Canada.
Temika L. Coleman, 40; Vincent Prunty, 34; and Gemico T. Childress, 43, — the three defendants — all are from Hammond and have past connections to Whiting, Crown Point, Chicago and Calumet City.
Coleman and Childress are siblings and Coleman has a child with Prunty, records show. All three attended the same school.
From September 2012 through December 2016, the three allegedly devised a scheme to defraud several victims by obtaining personal identifying information — including birth dates, social security numbers and existing credit cards.
They did this to open fraudulent accounts, and make ATM withdrawals and in-store purchases in Northwest Indiana and Illinois, among other offenses, according to a March 2017 grand jury indictment.
During this time, the three successfully submitted multiple online fraudulent credit card applications without victims’ knowledge from the same computer IP address on Waltham Street in Hammond for personal gain, court records show.
They targeted victims in Northwest Indiana; Salt Lake City, Utah; Carol Stream, Illinois; Delaware, Ohio; Orlando, Florida; Chester, Pennsylvania; Canada, and more, records show.
On Aug. 18, 2016, a credit card embossing machine, victims’ credit cards, re-coded cards with victims’ names, merchandise receipts associated with victims’ accounts and U.S. mail in victims’ names were all discovered at the Waltham Street home in Hammond.
Documents containing names, date of births, social security numbers, addresses and credit account information were also found in the home, the March 16, 2017, indictment states.
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3 guilty pleas in less than week
Prunty on Monday pleaded guilty to wire fraud, mail fraud, aggravated identify theft, according to court documents.
According to the plea agreement, Prunty in July 2015 obtained someone else’s credit card information, made an in-store purchase and added himself as an authorized user on the account.
He also admitted to obtaining someone else’s credit card information in July 2016 and redirecting the person’s credit report from a Chester, Pennsylvania, address to a Hammond address in an effort to open credit card accounts using personal data.
Coleman, also known as Lexi Carter, pleaded guilty last week to three counts: wire fraud, mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. In court records, she admitted to using personal information on April 30, 2015, to apply for a credit card in a unsuspecting victim's name.
In April 2014, she and Prunty knowingly opened an AT&T account using someone else's personal information to get internet services at their Hammond home. On Dec. 25, 2013, Prunty and Coleman used another victim's personal information to apply for and receive a credit card through Chase Bank, records show.
Childress pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. He is accused of of using two victims’ personal information to open fraudulent Chase Bank credit cards on May 1 and 6 of 2015.
He also has admitted in court documents of buying a cellphone with a third victim’s credit card and having it shipped to his address in Hammond.
Because of the seriousness of the offenses, Coleman, Prunty and Childress each face a maximum of 42 years in prison, 7 years supervised release and be required to pay $750,000 in fines, court records state.