The word “pickpocket” inspires Dickensian images of Fagin and his apprentice, the Artful Dodger, working the crowded streets of 1830s England.
Unless, that is, you’re one of the victims of the 200-strong “Cannon to the Wiz” identity-theft ring.
Leonardo Darnell Zanders, 39, the alleged ringleader was arrested in Detroit in April after several people’s pockets were picked at the Final Four basketball games. The group was based in Chicago, but they picked pockets and used other more high-tech methods stole checks and identities from victims all over the country, especially targeting crowded events.
Once the thieves lifted their victims’ wallets, they raced them to cars equipped with computers, cameras and printers, where they swiftly replaced the photos on the stolen driver’s licenses. The set up allowed the thieves to max out the stolen credit and bankcards before the victims even knew they’d be hit.
Postal inspectors searched Zanders’ house in February and found documents for 36 victims from nine state and Washington, D.C. Also in February, Secret Service agents searched the home of an alleged associate, Clyde Austin Gray Jr. where they discovered I.D. and bank documents for another 85 victims.
Each victim’s identity was comprised in rubber-band bound packets including personal checks, bankcards and original driver’s license along with another fake driver’s license bearing the photo of one of the thieves.
Other victims weren’t pickpocketed, but had their bank account information stolen from checks donated to a D.C. area nonprofit. Several checks were found in an employee’s desk at Combined Federal Campaign for the National Capital Area.
Feds got much of their information from informants within the crime ring, including one who said he or she charged between $200 and $500 for each set of documents sold to the syndicate.
Another insider claimed the 37 information packets he turned over to the Cannon to the Wiz resulted in $385,000 in losses.
Also charged were Wenona Latrice White, Sydney Anthony Charles, Shonya Michelle Young, Darryl Earl Price, Sylvester Vaughn, George Lee Reid, Claire Barker and Lennier McLeod.