Smithville Police Arrest Two In Identity Theft Case

November 17, 2006
by: 
Dwayne Page

Officers and Detectives of the Smithville Police Department have arrested two individuals involved in a complex scheme using identity theft, burglary, drugs, stolen checks, and multiple ID's to defraud merchants out of thousands of dollars in merchandise and stolen property throughout Middle Tennessee.

In a prepared news release, Smithville Police Chief Thomas J. Stufano, says \"After receiving a tip from an off-duty police officer, Smithville officers responded to Advanced Auto Parts on South Congress Boulevard and after a short investigation arrested Merel Aaron Degroat of 9740 Old Kentucky Road in Sparta and Anissa Renee Adams of 622 C. Poplar Street in Monterey and booked them into the DeKalb County Jail on drug charges and passing a bad check.\"

Stufano says \" With intensive followup by investigators the next day, it was discovered that the checks were reported stolen during the commission of a burglary in Hamilton County. After comparing investigative notes on area identity theft cases, Smithville Police Detectives formed a Task Force which included Alexandria Police, the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, Putnam County Sheriff's Department, McMinnville Police, Monterey Police, and Baxter Police and through cooperative efforts were able to track the extensive trail of stolen checks and illegal identities used throughout Middle Tennessee. The use of these fraudulent identities helped purchase thousands of dollars of product including jewelry, clothes, beauty products, auto parts, and large quantities of food.\"

According to Chief Stufano, \"The couple would routinely strike up conversations with the store checkout clerks in an attempt to sway them away from validating the ID. On many occasions, the clerks were advised that the items purchased were being donated to various charities. The investigation showed that the couple was using the stolen products to trade for drugs throughout the area.\"

\"In a combined search of the defendant's home and vehicle, Detectives recovered thousands of dollars worth of merchandise, most with the tags still on them, along with a cache of drugs. Due to the diligent effort of the Smithville Investigators, all of the merchandise purchased from Smithville merchants was recovered and will be returned to them.\"

Degroat is also charged with facilitation of a felony and violation of parole. He remains in jail under a $100,000 bond.

Adams is also charged with four counts of forgery, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of drugs. Her bond is $55,000. The vehicle used in the illegal operation was seized by the Smithville Police Department under the State's Forfeiture Act.

Chief Stufano says \"The city's new Crime Watch Program, which began earlier this month, touts the increase of Identity Theft and how citizens and merchants can protect themselves from these types of cases.\"

\"Identity theft is becoming more sophisticated and the number of new victims is growing. In general, consumers are protected against liability for unauthorized accounts or transactions under federal and state law and by financial industry practices. However, innocent victims of identity theft sometimes do suffer losses. And if the crime is not detected early, people may face months or years cleaning up the damage to their reputation and credit rating, and sometimes they lose out on loans, jobs and other opportunities in the meantime.\"

Chief Stufano says \"The Smithville Police Department is committed to aggressively investigating these types of crimes and asks our citizens to please contact the Police Department if you feel you have been a victim or have information about these crimes.\"

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