Five Michigan residents are facing a slew of fraud-related felonies after Perkins police caught onto their scheme in late January.
Warren (McCallum) Mathias, 35, and James Timmons, 30, both of Detroit; Tarea Billingslea, 32, and Julius Wallace, 33, both of Westland; and Robert Dozier, 29, of Muskegon Heights, were all indicted this week by an Erie County grand jury on four counts of complicity to theft and one count each of complicity to criminal tools possession, forgery, identity fraud, criminal simulation and receiving stolen property.
Mathias was also charged with obstruction and tampering with records, while Dozier was charged with tampering with records. Billingslea was additionally charged with tampering with evidence and Wallace with complicity to tampering with records.
On Jan. 18, Perkins police received complaints about the group purchasing $1,000 in gift cards at Toys R Us on Milan Road, then driving to Lowe’s to purchase another $2,000 in that store’s gift cards, according to a police report.
Officers stopped the group’s rental SUV in front of Applebee’s and quickly learned something was amiss.
Mathias offered up a fake name and Social Security number, with Billingslea claiming he accidentally threw his ID out the window, the report said.
As officers searched the vehicle, they found credit cards belonging to men with different names than those inside the SUV. They also found an Xbox and several different store’s gift cards worth thousands of dollars, the report said.
All told, officers seized $8,276 in gift cards to Lowe’s, Speedway, Macy’s, Toys R Us, Home Depot, Gamestop and Visa. Also found were 10 Discover and Rush credit cards with various names and a forged Pennsylvania driver’s license.
Each person was carrying their own cell phone, but six more phones and a tablet were also inside the vehicle.
When Billingslea stepped out of the vehicle so officers could search it, she took a bottle of water with her. Police later realized she’d put a piece of paper inside the water, but they were unable to make out exactly what it said.
The suspects offered varying narratives for why they were in town, who their fellow groupmembers were and how they came to be in possession of the fraudulent IDs and credit cards.
Initially, each person was charged with various counts of criminal tools possession, theft, identity fraud, criminal simulation and tampering with records.
This week, an Erie County grand jury saw fit to reduce all of the counts to one per suspect on all but the theft charges.
On Thursday the Erie County Court of Common Pleas issued summons for each of them to appear on the respective indictments.