Three Southland women were arrested on identity theft charges Jan. 11 by detectives as part of a two-month investigation involving stolen customer account information from the village's branch, according to police reports.
Keisha N. Evans, 23, of the 0-100 block of Olympic Village in Chicago Heights; Tangelo N. Harper, 23, of the 18700 block of John Avenue in Country Club Hills; and Tanteyana Smith, 25, of the 600 block of Brookline Street in Chicago Heights, were charged with felony identity theft. Evans faces three counts, and Harper and Smith are charged with two. They will be in court for preliminary hearings Feb. 3.
Frankfort Police detectives began investigating the trio after the November arrest of Tiffany L. Drumgole, 22, of the 3200 block of Saugamon Street in Steger, on seven counts of identity theft, said Cmdr. Kevin Keegan. Drumgole, an employee at Frankfort's Bank of America branch, is accused of compromising 19 accounts at the bank after detectives found evidence at her residence tying her back to the bank customers' profiles, he said.
Drumgole, whose pretrial hearing is Feb. 21, began lifting the account information as early as October 2011, and police received the first complaint Oct. 21, Keegan said. Bank investigators and detectives worked together to identify Drumgole's other 18 victims, who are from all around the area, he added. Keegan said he's confident investigators have identified everyone affected by Drumgole's actions last year.
While investigating Drumgole, detectives found that she had sold customers' bank account information to Evans, Harper and Smith, who were Drumgole's friends but not bank employees, Keegan said. The three women used that information to open various credit card accounts and then used those cards to buy video game systems, electronics, gift cards, baby accessories and other merchandise, according to Keegan. In some cases, the women paid for their own phone and cable bills with the accounts, he added.
On Jan. 11, Frankfort detectives served search warrants on the women's three houses, where they collected evidence, including fraudulently purchased items, account ledgers, PIN numbers, credit cards and other documents, Keegan said. The women then were taken to police headquarters, where they were questioned and charged, he added.
"This is a very time-consuming case, and there's a lot of extensive research and time that goes into this," Keegan said, adding he was proud of the department's work on the case.
For this investigation, detectives needed to track down the companies and businesses where the fraudulent purchases were made, as well as uncover computer IP addresses in order to gather enough evidence to convince a grand jury to issue subpoenas to internet and cell phone providers to turn over customer information, he said. The authorities then are at the mercy of those companies, which can be backlogged with other requests, leaving the possibility of the evidence trail going cold before investigators can even ask a judge for a search warrant, Keegan added.