Jury Finds Defendant Guilty in Multi-State Mother-Son Fraud Scheme

3 mins read
FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

FLORENCE, SOUTH CAROLINA —Quinae Shamyra Stephens, 41, of Douglasville, Georgia, was convicted following a jury trial in federal court for multiple charges relating to a multi-state identity theft and fraud ring she was running with her son, who previously pled guilty to a wire and bank fraud conspiracy. Stephens’s trial marked the first federal criminal jury trial in the Pee Dee region since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Identity theft is a crime that impacts every American and can create lifelong victims. This office will vigorously prosecute criminals who steal from hardworking taxpayers to line their own pockets,” said U.S. Attorney Corey F. Ellis. “Stephens enlisted her son in a sophisticated scheme that involved using the dark web, among other resources, to steal the identities and credit card information of numerous individuals across the country. Stephens, who had at least two felony convictions, committed part of her scheme from a stolen van and while carrying a loaded firearm. I appreciate the quick work of our local partners with the Latta Police Department, and the thorough investigative work of the U.S. Secret Service. This case would not have been possible without them.”

“The primary investigative mission of the U.S. Secret Service is to protect the financial infrastructure of the United States by investigating complex, often cyber-enabled, financial crimes,” said John Hirt, Special Agent in Charge of the Columbia Field Office for the U.S. Secret Service. “The Secret Service is also home to expert forensic analysts who employ advanced investigative and technological capabilities in support of this integrated mission along with our law enforcement partners.  This case is an excellent example of the success of teamwork amongst the Latta Police Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the U.S. Secret Service, utilizing our combined expertise to bring criminals to justice for committing a variety of complex financial crimes which are the focus of the Secret Service’s investigative work.”

“On behalf of the Latta Police Department and the citizens of our town, we give the utmost appreciation to our federal partners in this conviction,” said Josh Holt, Chief of the Latta Police Department. “Financial crimes cover all demographics and identity fraud affects so many unknowing victims.  Even in a small town like ours, crime doesn’t pay.”

Evidence presented by the Government at trial established that Stephens and her son, Deandre Copes, 23, also of Douglasville, were travelling from New Jersey to Florida in a stolen rental van when they drew the attention of law enforcement officers in Latta because they were going back and forth from a bank to a local retail store. A search of the van ultimately revealed more than a dozen identification documents – including several with Stephens’s picture in various names, a device for re-encoding credit cards with different account information, and more than 25 debit and credit cards, most in the name of individuals other than Stephens or her son.

Further forensics investigation by the Secret Service revealed that Stephens would download instructional material from the dark web related to credit card fraud and identity theft, and used software form the dark web to procure personally identifiable information. The laptop also contained instructional material and files that could be used to create fake banking websites to steal account information.

Evidence also showed that Stephens possessed a loaded semi-automatic handgun. Stephens is prohibited from possessing a firearm and ammunition based upon at least two prior felony convictions in Georgia.

More than 120 exhibits were entered into evidence during the trial, and more than a dozen witnesses and victims travelled from California, Minnesota, New Jersey, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina to testify. The jury ultimately convicted Stephens on all six charges brought against her, including conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, credit card fraud, identity theft, aggravated identity theft, interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle, and felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

United States District Judge Sherri A. Lydon presided over the trial and will sentence Stephens and her son after receiving and reviewing pre-sentence reports prepared by the United States Probation Office.  Stephens and her son each face a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison, and a fine of $1,000,000, for conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud. Stephens also faces a mandatory two-year consecutive sentence for aggravated identity theft.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service, Latta Police Department, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Assistant U.S. Attorneys Derek A. Shoemake and Everett McMillian prosecuted the case.

###