Don’t leave your wallet or purse in a car if you want to avoid broken windows — and identity fraud

A persistent group of thieves known as the “felony lane gang” have been going through parking lots in the Treasure Valley — including health clubs, stores, public parks, and even churches — over the last several months. They break car windows to get at wallets, purses, backpacks, or other bags that may have credit cards, bank cards, and check books.

That’s the first way people are victimized. The second round of damage can happen only hours later when those thieves use the stolen checks and credit cards at local banks.

The FBI has described the Felony Lane Gang as “a group of thieves based in Florida, that travels across the United States stealing identities and checkbooks from unattended cars. With the stolen checkbooks and driver’s licenses, the gang cashes checks using the drive through lane of banks. The farthest lane from video cameras and tellers have been dubbed the ‘felony lane’ because of the ease with which false identities can be used to cash checks.”

The scam works like this. Thieves drive around parking lots until they see a purse or backpack. They park the car and someone walks up with a metal window-punching device. They break the glass, snap up the bag from inside the car, and leave in a matter of seconds.

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Once they get the driver’s license of a female victim, they try to match the picture of that ID with a woman they use in the scam, oftentimes using a wig. That woman then drives to a bank, goes in the farthest car lane from the window, and attempts to cash a check.

The thieves have a good idea of how much money they can cash a check for without have to go inside – in some cases as much as $2,000. They also steal local license plates to keep the cars inconspicuous.

It can be difficult to catch the ringleaders of the scam, who generally aren’t in the cars when the actual check fraud occurs.

In mid-August, ACSO deputies arrested two women, Danielle Cook, 28 and Jennifer Gallagher, 31, for attempting to cash fraudulent checks at a bank in Eagle.

Both women were wearing wigs and were in a car later determined to be stolen from Florida. Gallagher told deputies she came to Boise from Fort Lauderdale area just days before.

They were charged with two felony counts each of grand theft and burglary. Those charges were dropped late last month when both women were indicted in federal court on similar charges.

Deputies arrested a 25-year-old man and 37-year-old woman from Georgia in June in connection with the same scam.

Octavious Walker is charged with felony counts of burglary, and conspiracy to commit grand theft. Walker is being held in the Ada County Jail on a $1 million bond. His jury trial is set to begin Nov. 17 in Ada County 4th District Court.

Carolyn Paige Griffith, who was seen wearing a wig and driving the car through the “felony lane” at several area banks while trying to case fraudulent checks, is charged with the same crimes. Her trial is set to begin in December. Griffith was released from jail in July after posting a $150,000 bond.

ACSO deputies and Boise Police arrested Walker and Griffith June 11th – the day after three cars were broken into across the Treasure Valley.

Walker and Griffith tried to use stolen ID’s and checks from those car burglaries to withdraw thousands of dollars from Treasure Valley banks.

Officers were able to catch them at a local hotel, where they found evidence linking them to the car burglaries and the check fraud case, including financial papers and a spring-loaded window punch.

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