Action News 5 Investigates: Identity Crisis - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Nick Kenney

Action News 5 Investigates: Identity Crisis

Each year, hundreds of Mid-Southerners have their identities stolen.  Often, bank accounts are wiped out and credit ruined.  But the identity theft victim of one recent victim left a much bigger problem on her hands: handcuffs!

For eleven years, Tedra Wilson saved money to open a salon.  Two years ago, she found a location where she could open up her long planned-for business.  But it was not to be.

In early September of 2006, Wilson ran into the Kroger on Frayser Boulevard on a quick errand.  While she was inside, someone reached inside her car window and stole her purse.  The contents of her purse, including her wallet, credit cards, and driver's license, were all taken.

Wilson immediately notified Memphis police of the theft.  "I called all the credit bureaus, and everything I was supposed to do," she said.

But nearly a year later, in June of 2007, Wilson was arrested on charges of forgery, theft, and identity theft.  Investigators in Fayette County accused her of passing bogus checks at local grocery stores. 

Whoever stole her identity was now using it against her.

Wilson spent two days in jail, and had to go to court three times before the charges were dropped.

"The system failed me, because I turned to them for help," she said. "I called and told them that my identity was taken, and yet, instead of them finding who took my stuff, they coming and locking me up."

It happened again last month, this time, in Tipton County, where authorities accused Wilson of passing two bogus checks.  In court, prosecutors again dropped the charges, but not before Wilson served seven days in jail awaiting a bond hearing.

"Every time a police or sheriff comes on my street, I don't know if they're coming to get me or not," Wilson said. "I don't have time to keep getting out of jail, keep going to jail."

Wilson's attorney, Cyburn Sullivan, said she is the victim of an elaborate theft ring working with stolen driver's licenses and fake checks.

"(A person) buys the stolen identity, matches up some girl that looks close, prints up some bogus checks, and they're on the road again," Sullivan said.

Tipton County Chief Deputy Donna Turner sees it all the time.  According to Turner, if your identity is stolen, you can protect yourself by grabbing a Federal Trade Commission booklet, filling it out, and mailing it in.

"If bad checks or forged checks or delinquent loans come up, and creditors start calling you, then that's one thing you can point them to - you've already made that report," Turner said.

But it's too late for Tedra Wilson, who is still trying to get her life back.

"You telling me everything's dismissed and I'm cleared, but am I going to get my money back for getting all these bail bondsmen? (For) getting all these different lawyers? Then I'll be happy," she said.

And she still hopes to open her own salon.

Click here to send an email to Nick Kenney.

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