Police: Florida ID theft ring operating in north suburbs
Molly E. Meiring / photo from Winnetka police
Updated: December 4, 2012 3:42PM
WINNETKA — The arrest of a Florida woman last month and a subsequent investigation by the Winnetka Police Department has linked the crime to a group that law enforcement calls the “Florida Felony Lane Gang.”
Molly E. Meiring, 35, of 5741 N.E. 18th Ave., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., was arrested by Winnetka police at 3:25 p.m. Nov. 29 while attempting to cash a forged check with a stolen identification at Northern Trust Bank, 62 Green Bay Road.
Meiring was believed to have conducted a similar transaction the previous day at the same bank and Northern Trust employees recognized the suspect and called police. Meiring was still in the bank’s drive thru when police arrived.
“In this case they got greedy and came back the next day,” said Winnetka Police Commander Jim Christensen. “They were successful the previous day.”
An investigation by Winnetka police revealed the crime matched an operation used by a criminal operation known to police as the “Florida Felony Lane Gang.” The group recruits in Florida and operates in places like Chicago’s suburbs.
Leading up to the crime, two different women’s purses were stolen from unattended vehicles parked separately in Northbrook and Evanston. The suspects use the identification, checkbooks and other bank information to write and cash checks against each victim’s accounts.
“(The suspects) use a check and make it payable to another burglary victim of which they have a driver’s license,” Christensen said. “(Meiring) cut her hair short so she can don wigs. Through makeup and other means they try to look like one of the victims.”
Christensen said the group has ring leaders in Florida who recruit individuals, typically women who have fallen on hard times, and travel with them to the Chicago area. Crews already in Chicago break into cars and steal purses looking for identification and check books.
“(The group’s leaders) recruit these people because they are the ones they want to get caught,” Christensen said. “A lot of (the leaders) stay out on the perimeter as lookouts.”
Christensen said residents need to take precaution with their purses and personal identification. Gyms and fitness centers are primary targets of groups like these as people tend to leave their wallets and purses in their cars while working out.
“It’s a sophisticated group of felons out there looking to do more than take the cash out of your wallet,” Christensen said. “They’re looking to drain your bank account and they do it fast. Often times it’s on the same day before victims can notify their financial institution.”
Christensen said the Winnetka Police Department is working with other law enforcement agencies and the crime remains an active investigation.