EAST ST. LOUIS — A federal grand jury on Tuesday returned a 17-count indictment charging 15 individuals, including a Madison business owner, with charges arising from a stolen property fraud ring, U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Wigginton announced.
The indictment alleges the leader of the fraud ring, Jason J. Parmeley, 42, formerly of O’Fallon, Mo., conducted the scheme in Mexico. According to the indictment, Parmeley used the Internet to obtain credit account numbers that individuals and businesses had with retail stores, such as Home Depot, Lowe’s, Menards and rental stores, such as SunBelt Rentals. Using this information, Parmeley placed orders with the stores in the names of, and under the credit accounts of, the individuals and businesses. The items Parmeley ordered frequently consisted of appliances, expensive tools and construction equipment. The indictment charges that, after he placed the orders, Parmeley dispatched drivers to go to the stores and pick up the items. The items were sold at prices substantially below retail. The profits were wire-transferred to Parmeley in Mexico.
“Essentially, we allege that Parmeley and his gang committed identity theft, not only stealing the electronic identity of individuals, but also stealing the electronic identity of businesses,” Wigginton said in a press release. “I urge anyone who thinks that they might have been affected by this scheme to report their case to my office.”
The retail and rental stores victimized by this scheme were located in various parts of the United States, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma and Virginia. Some of the victimized stores were within the Southern District of Illinois, including stores in Collinsville, Granite City and O’Fallon.
The indictment also charges that James D. Litchfield, 58, owner of Big Jim’s Autorama in Madison, purchased many items which he knew had been obtained by fraud. These items were delivered to Litchfield at Big Jim’s Autorama. The indictment further alleges that Litchfield provided two trucks that were used by his co-conspirators to pick up fraudulently ordered items.
The other defendants charged in the indictment are: Angel Speed, 25, formerly of O’Fallon, Mo.; Sean A. Shields, 47, of Ozark, Mo.; Shannan Flora, 41, of Vienna, Ill.; Alice J. Hembree, 43, of O’Fallon, Mo.; Tony G. Robertson, 43, of O’Fallon, Mo.; Steven J. Belcher, 44, of Wentzville, Mo.; Jesse S. Urias, 36, of Los Angeles; Ryan P. Litchfield, 37, of O’Fallon, Mo.; Rigoberto Gutierrez, 26, of Compton, Calif.; Russell J. Witt, 33, of New Baltimore, Mich.; Bryce E. Atkinson, 21, of Lake Saint Louis, Mo.; Nicholas A. Brockman, 20, of Wentzville, Mo.; and Benedict G. Pellerito, 55, of Troy, Mo.
Both James D. Litchfield and Ryan P. Litchfield were arrested Wednesday. Their trial date has been set for Dec. 21.
In late August, Mexican immigration authorities deported Parmeley from Mexico. Parmeley is in federal custody in Alabama on an unrelated bank fraud charge. The remaining defendants are expected to appear for arraignment within the next two weeks.
The charges contained in the indictment include conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to transport property obtained by fraud in interstate commerce, wire fraud, interstate transportation of property obtained by fraud, possession of property obtained by fraud, money laundering and aggravated identity theft. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of the proceeds of the fraud scheme.
The investigation is being conducted by agents from the St. Louis Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI has received substantial assistance from many state and local police departments in numerous jurisdictions, including the Metro East Auto Theft Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott A. Verseman.
An indictment is a formal charge against a defendant. Under the law, that charge is an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.