published Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Woman charged in tri-state fraud case

Police believe a Calhoun, Ga., woman who was booked in the Gordon County Jail this week was using multiple names and spending money from people whose identities had been stolen across the tri-state area.

Shannon Lewis was transported from Alabama to the Gordon County Jail on Monday on charges of stealing the identity of at least four people and cashing checks in their names in multiple cities in northern Georgia, authorities said.

Lewis, 33, already has pleaded guilty to several charges of identity theft in Scottsboro, Ala., after she was captured in Huntsville, Ala., at the end of December, Scottsboro Police Detective Zackie Gant said.

The charges are 15 counts of printing, executing and negotiating checks, two counts of second-degree forgery and 17 counts of both first-degree forgery and false identity fraud, booking reports show.

Police still are investigating how Lewis got the alleged victims’ identities, Gant said.

“She would never tell us how she got it,” he said.

Gant said he has evidence that may link Lewis to bad checks cashed as far away as Rhode Island and Massachusetts, but he doesn’t have the resources to investigate.

“She definitely knows what she’s doing,” he said. But Calhoun police say they have the evidence to prove Lewis stole at least four people’s identity from Alabama and began to print bad checks — each for several hundred dollars — to cash at the local Walmart and Kmart stores over several months.

“There may be some more, but we weren’t able to locate them,” police spokesman Detective Lt. Tony Pyle said.

The charges came a year after Lewis’ identity was discovered, Gant said.

Last July, Gant said, he began to investigate a complaint that a Scottsboro man’s credit card was being used at stores in Calhoun, Rome and Dalton.

Using video surveillance, Gant said he found footage from each store of the same woman. Finally, he found a video of the woman driving away and traced the rented vehicle back to an Atlanta company that identified Lewis’ name and address, he said.

Calhoun police then got involved, but hit a snag when authorities tried to arrest Lewis at her Chattanooga office and she had disappeared, Pyle said.

A Facebook message from Lewis to her family members in Huntsville, Ala., tipped police off, Gant said. A U.S. marshal found Lewis at a nearby hotel days after Christmas and arrested her, he said.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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