MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Two law enforcement agencies are trying to identify a prolific identity thief who has a penchant for dead people's bank accounts.
Wednesday, Memphis police released a picture of the male suspect. A police news release revealed he was captured Feb. 6 on surveillance cameras at Kroger, 2632 Frayser Blvd., using a deceased man's bank account information to purchase $9,900 in gift cards.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol first alerted the WMC Action News 5 Investigators to the suspect. THP Sgt. Chris Richardson said the suspect has stolen the bank account information of at least 10 individuals, half of whom are deceased.
"At this point, we estimate $300,000 in damage," said Richardson. "We have no idea (how he's stealing the bank information). He's a pro, and he's not making any mistakes."
Richardson said the unidentified suspect stole the bank information of a man who died last May. Six weeks after his death, his widow -- whom we'll call 'Louise' -- deposited his life insurance death benefit into their joint account, then went on vacation with her mother.
At virtually the same time, the suspected thief arranged the delivery of a replacement debit card on the account in her deceased husband's name to a Germantown, TN, hotel. According to Richardson, he immediately drained $57,000 from Louise's funds, nearly all of her late husband's life insurance.
"I was horrified," Louise said in a phone interview. "I mean, I hadn't really gotten over the shock of his death, and I was going to use the life insurance to pay off the mortgage on the house because my income alone wouldn't pay for the mortgage."
Louise's bank eventually reimbursed her losses after its own investigation.
Surveillance cameras at five Mid-South Kroger stores (1675 N. Germantown Pkwy., 4270 Summer Ave., 2632 Frayser Blvd., 8039 Highway 51 N. in Millington, 9025 Highway 64 in Arlington) have captured the suspect using stolen bank information to secure either cashiers checks, money orders or Mastercard/VISA gift cards. He typically wears a black baseball cap and sunglasses while inside the stores, although the MPD release showed he did not wear sunglasses on his stop at the Frayser store.
If you can help identify this suspect, please call the Tennessee Highway Patrol at *THP or 901-543-6273. Tips can also be left with Crime Stoppers at 901-528-CASH.
You may also e-mail tips to WMC Action News 5 Chief Consumer Investigator Andy Wise at email@example.com.