Christopher Wilcox, 30, and Parrish Roberts, 21, both of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. and Ricardo Ronodean Mitchell II, 23, of Coral Springs, Fla., pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court to conspiracy to commit bank fraud as part of the group known as the “Felony Lane Gang,” according to David Rivera, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee.
The defendants were part of a group of five individuals arrested in Nashville on Oct. 4, 2012, while being sought by the FBI and local area law enforcement after receiving an alert from Regions Bank Corporate Security days earlier.
“The crimes committed by members of the ‘Felony Lane Gang’ are particularly egregious, considering the tens of thousands of dollars they fraudulently obtain and the number of victims left in their wake to deal with identity theft issues,” said Rivera. “These crimes expend the resources of many law enforcement agencies during the subsequent investigations. This is an example of the great work and cooperation between our law enforcement partners and the corporate sector.”
Each of the three defendants entered into plea agreements in which they pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. In their plea agreements, the defendants admitted their members are normally based in south Florida, and from there travel the country in rental vehicles; that they target gyms, parks, daycare centers and sporting events likely to be frequented by women and increasing the chances of finding purses left in vehicles; that they conduct surveillance at these locations and unlawfully enter vehicles through unlocked doors or by using a window punch to break the window of a locked vehicle; they specifically look for identification such as driver licenses, checks and debit cards.
The suspects then recruit females who are normally prostitutes and/or drug addicts to assume the identities of the theft victims in order to cash stolen checks belonging to other victims. The suspects normally supply the recruited check cashers with wigs in order to create a physical appearance similar to that of the victims whose identification was stolen. The check cashers normally use the farthest drive through lane from the bank building to conduct the fraudulent transactions, hence earning their nickname as the “Felony Lane Gang.”
"This plea is the result of the excellent investigative work of all of the law enforcement agencies involved, and the desire to end the targeting of victims throughout our communities," said A. Todd McCall, special agent in charge of the Memphis Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. "The crime of financial fraud is a priority for the FBI and we will continue to work with our partners to bring those who commit it to justice."
Wilcox, Roberts and Mitchell admitted in their plea agreements that they targeted Nashville on or around Oct. 2-4, 2012 as part of a group attempting to pass stolen checks at Regions Bank. Investigators recovered four stolen driver’s licenses and four stolen bank cards from outside a hotel where the defendants’ rental vehicles had been seen. The plea agreement stated that the loss amount for their fraud totaled $33,000.
Wilcox, Roberts and Mitchell each face up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine on the conspiracy charge.
The remaining defendants, Dwayne Donton, Wilson, and Jillian Bysong, are scheduled for trial on June 17, 2014, in U.S. District Court in Nashville. They are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The case was investigated by the FBI; the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, the Nashville Airport Department of Public Safety; and police departments from Brentwood, Springfield, Hendersonville, Gallatin, Smyrna and Murfreesboro, Tennessee; with the assistance of the Regional Organized Crime Information Center.
Assistant U.S. attorney Scarlett M. Singleton is serving as prosecutor.