PHOENIX, AZ (September 20, 2011) – Nine members of a criminal syndicate uncovered by Scottsdale Police and convicted of trafficking in stolen identities will spend a total of more than 107 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections. The group was brought to justice after an eight month investigation that revealed a scheme to steal personal information and manufacture fraudulent credit cards to pay for illegal drugs, prostitutes, cars and living expenses.
“This case highlights the results of a great partnership we have with the MCAO. It also highlights the severe penalties that criminals face for crimes that they mistake as low risk,” said Scottsdale Police Assistant Chief Sean Duggan. “The message here is that fraud and identity theft will be aggressively investigated and prosecuted to keep these criminals from preying on society,” he added.
“Thanks to the outstanding work of Scottsdale Police investigators, my prosecutors are able to hold these criminals accountable for the harm they caused to multiple innocent citizens,” remarked Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “Let this be a warning to other potential identity thieves that the law enforcement agencies of Maricopa County have not only the means but the determination to track them down and put them in prison for a long time. If you engage in identity theft in Maricopa County, you will pay,” he added.
The syndicate was initially uncovered during a traffic stop of a vehicle that had been fraudulently rented by defendant Christopher Milazzo. In their search of the vehicle, Police discovered telephone memo slips containing names, credit card numbers and PIN numbers that had apparently been stolen from a telemarketing firm owned by a man Milazzo had briefly lived with. They also found personal information belonging to customers of a Henry Brown auto dealership, where defendant Dominick Hurley worked. Subsequent surveillance revealed that defendant Dan Sullivan used this personal information to manufacture false IDs and credit cards. Other members of the syndicate used the fraudulent cards to rent hotel rooms and vehicles, and to purchase expensive merchandise which was subsequently resold or pawned to pay for prostitutes and illegal drugs. Hurley also used his position at the Henry Brown dealership to divert more than $25,000 to himself and defendant Anthony Merrick by fraudulently obtaining gift cards that were part of a customer incentive program. Victims of the crimes committed by members of the syndicate are believed to number in the hundreds, with financial losses in the tens of thousands of dollars.
On March 4, 2009, a Maricopa County Grand Jury returned a 75-count indictment charging the nine syndicate members with crimes including fraudulent schemes and artifices, theft, forgery, taking the identity of another and possession or use of dangerous drugs. All but one of the defendants pled guilty to multiple charges. Merrick went to trial and was found guilty on all counts. The defendants received the following sentences on the following dates:
|Anthony J. Merrick||DOB: 12/19/66||35 years DOC||7/29/11|
|Christopher S. Milazzo||DOB: 6/6/69||18 years DOC||12/14/09|
|David B. Baxter||DOB: 10/31/60||15 years DOC||10/8/09|
|Dominick J. Hurley||DOB: 1/16/62||10 years DOC||8/18/11|
|Dan F. Sullivan||DOB: 2/13/83||9.5 years DOC||10/21/09|
|Julia M. Franzen||DOB: 4/29/70||9.25 years DOC||10/14/09|
|Eve M. Ford||DOB: 11/1/66||8.5 years DOC||9/24/09|
|Theresa A. Snell||DOB: 3/23/67||1.5 years DOC||5/3/10|
|Erin L. Stevens||DOB: 5/31/85||6 months jail||10/8/09|