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Nine Charlotte-area thieves going to prison for fraud

Nine Charlotte-area residents have been sentenced to prison time for wire fraud and identity theft. The group is part of a ring law enforcement officials blame for hundreds of car break-ins and hundreds of thousands of dollars in stolen property. At least five of the nine defendants are related. All of them admitted in federal court to participating in a crime ring that broke into cars and houses, usually stealing checkbooks and identification. They would use those documents to shop at stores like Target and Belk. Sometimes, they would even return what they bought and get cash. Police say 40-year-old Loretta Blakeney-Herron appeared to be group's ringleader. She has been sentenced to 12 years in prison. CMPD Deputy Chief Harold Medlock led a press conference on December 18, 2008, just hours after the defendants were arrested in an early-morning raid. "This investigation began in 2007 due to the efforts of one police officer investigating several larcenies from auto cases," says Medlock at the press conference. "As the case progressed, CMPD realized that it involved multiple suspects with victims in nearly every neighborhood in Mecklenburg County." Medlock said this case was a particular victory for CMPD because car break-ins are typically hard to prosecute and many of the suspects had been arrested repeatedly. By linking the thieves to fraud and identity theft, federal prosecutors were able to secure prison time for all nine of the defendants. Each of them has also been ordered to pay $23,212 in restitution.