An unlikely duo led investigators to expose an alleged identity theft operation: a confessed burglar who told police something fishy was going on in a home he burglarized and one of the fraud suspects who didn’t tidy up before she let authorities in to the house.
The U.S. Secret Service and Lauderhill police said they found a trove of evidence — in plain view — at the home that the residents were involved in an identity theft and credit card fraud conspiracy.
Eric Jermaine Spivey, 27, and Chenequa Austin, 38, both pleaded not guilty this week to five federal charges of aggravated identity theft, fraud and conspiracy.
Investigators said that ballistic tests on a Glock 19 handgun they found in the home will now be used as evidence against Spivey in a pending attempted second-degree murder case that was filed against him in 2013 in state court in Miami-Dade County. Spivey also pleaded not guilty to a related federal charge of possessing a firearm while a convicted felon.
A detective and a Secret Service agent went to the house two days later, pretending they were there to investigate the burglary, which Austin had previously reported to police.
“Chenequa Austin brought me through the residence to identify the path of the burglar. While inside the home, I immediately noticed, in plain view, numerous gift cards, debit cards, credit cards, and prepaid stored value cards readily apparent in various locations in the residence,” Agent Jason Lanfersiek wrote in court records.
Also visible, inside an open closet, was a card embossing machine used to manufacture credit and debit cards, he wrote.
Austin told investigators Spivey moved in with her three months earlier and that he introduced her to identity theft and fraud by manufacturing cards in her name and sending her to stores to purchase items.
Spivey blamed Austin for the identity theft and fraud.
Authorities later got court permission to do a more thorough search of the house. They found 314 credit, gift and pre-paid debit cards and a machine that programs and reads cards.