Police in West Buechel are warning people to be careful about any information they share online after two women were arrested in a case involving stolen identities.
West Buechel Detective Robert Monroe said he first began investigating this case in early January when he learned of a check for nearly $40,000 that had been fraudulently cashed at a local BB&T.
Monroe said a search warrant was then issued, and police found enough evidence to charge 57-year-old Lori Davis with theft by deception and engaging in organized crime for taking the the fraudulent check to BB&T.
“These people are called money mules,” Monroe said. “They put money out that’s fraudulently obtained in different ways — whether it’s through mail or gift cards, any way, shape or form — and they hand it to people.”
Monroe said police quickly learned of a second suspect, 70-year-old Julianna Whobrey, who was then arrested on Jan. 18. Whobrey is charged with trafficking in stolen identities, engaging in organized crime, misuse of computer information, intent to defraud to obtain benefits, receiving goods by fraud and theft by deception.
According to Monroe, a search of Whobrey’s home found evidence including mail addressed to other people throughout the country.
“The two suspects work together in a mailroom somewhere in Louisville, so they carefully orchestrate on what they’re doing, and they hand each other mail, and they’re disguised in their line of work,” Monroe said.
“Suspect 1 would tell Suspect 2, ‘Hey, I’m going to give you an envelope tomorrow,'” Monroe said, adding that the envelopes would contain pre-paid cards.
Police said they believe the women were getting people’s information by accessing the dark web. Monroe said he thinks this has been going on for more than one year.
“The dark web is emerging pretty quick in the midst of this virus, and people are trying to cash out with it,” Monroe said.
He said the crime is even impacting unemployment benefits.
“These suspects both had other people’s unemployment applications from other states, specifically New York State Department of Labor,” Monroe said. “These envelopes were addressed to different people at different addresses, and what they’re doing is collecting all the information out of this mail, and they’re actually creating people who either don’t exist, are dead, or people who do exist. And what they’re doing is they’re clogging up the dissemination of these benefits for people who actually need them.”
Monroe said he believes there is a third suspect in this case, but that person lives in a different country.
“I’m forwarding the case to the FBI with all I’ve gathered so far, and I’m going to work with them,” he said.
Police are asking people to be careful online. Monroe said to only use secure websites, and most importantly, make your passwords complex and different for each site or online account you have.
“Because once a hacker gets into one of your accounts, he could probably get into all the rest of your accounts pretty easily,” Monroe said.