Richland County deputies have taken several people into custody that were generating over $12,000 a day cashing stolen checks.
Sheriff Leon Lott says that 8 members of the so-called ‘Felony Lane Gang’ were arrested and charged in the Midlands for allegedly breaking into vehicles, stealing checks, identification, credit cards, and debit cards. Lott said the suspects took money from their victims by using the far lane, or ‘felony lane,’ of the drive-thru at banks so that the employees would not be able to see they were wearing wigs and costumes while posing as their victims.
Lott said the following have been arrested: Courtney Walker, 25, Casey Goings, 22, Byron Robinson, 27, Walter James Tillman, 25, Donnie Dinkins, 26, Tavares Mills, 26, Kimberly Brogdon, 29, and Brandily Kersey, 27. All of the suspects are from Florida.
In a press release, Lott stated the Midlands experienced a dramatic rise in vehicle break-ins between May 5 and June 30. He said the break-ins seemed to target cars at locations that frequent people leaving purses in their cars (gyms, recreation facilities and wellness centers). During this time period, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department said it received 12 complaints of car break-ins and the same victims having money pulled from their bank accounts.
Lott said investigators began working with area banks and law enforcement that were all seeing similar cases. A working group or “Task Force’ began working collectively to identify similar cases and identify suspects. Deputies said they soon determined that Courtney Walker of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida had been arrested in Richland County in 2012 on fraud charges and investigators received information that Walker was involved in an organized gang that traveled the United States breaking into cars and defrauding banks.
Lott stated that law enforcement and area banks began compiling data on car break-ins and fraud cases in North and South Carolina, Georgia, DC, Florida, Massachusetts and up to the New York Area and determined that the bank industry coined “Felony Lane Gang” has been in operation for over 10 years and victimizing banks and citizens across the country. The Sheriff added that the male ring leaders of the gang are mainly from the Ft. Lauderdale and Miami area and they recruit the females from Orlando area who will cash stolen checks for a small percentage of the profits.
Most of the females have past convictions of prostitution, Lott said. The group would enter an area and the men would start breaking into cars looking for pocket books, checks, driver’s license, and credit cards; targeting vehicles at health clubs, tanning salons, amusement parks, and sporting events.
After stealing the pocketbooks, the men would start molding the female gang members to look like the stolen victim’s identity— coloring their hair, purchasing wigs, and providing them with large sun glasses. Lott said the gang members would then transport the women to local banks where they would present the victim’s ID and a stolen 2nd party check. Lott stated that investigators believe the gang was generating over $12,000 a day cashing stolen checks.