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PCSO News Release

Media Contact:
Wilder, Scott

Director of the Office of Communications 
News Date: 1/22/2016 

 Nine arrested in Polk & Highlands Food Stamp/SNAP/EBT fraud investigation 


Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives, working with the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office and investigators with local retailers, the Florida Department of Children & Families, and the FIS Company lead an investigation into fraudulently obtained and used EBT cards in Polk and Highlands Counties. The investigation lead to 11 suspects arrested or wanted with multiple criminal charges, including: Scheming to Defraud a Financial Institution, Public Assistance Fraud; Criminal Use of Personal Identification, Forgery, Fraudulent Use of Credit Card, Grand Theft, and other charges. 7 of the 11 suspects are also receiving public assistance benefits under their own name.  

“It’s pretty sad when you steal money from a program designed to help the poor. Taxpayers should be outraged with this fraud. We are committed to working with DCF and our retail partners to crack down on those who intentionally defraud our government assistance programs. These programs are for people who need them, not a bunch of thieves taking advantage of the system.”Grady Judd  

The investigation began in March of 2015 when a PCSO detective investigated a credit card fraud case reported by a Dundee man. The victim told detectives that he discovered a Credit One Bank credit card issued with his name on it (that he did not apply for) when he was reviewing his own credit report on “Credit Karma.” After obtaining receipts of the fraudulent credit card transactions, the detective, working with the asset protection staff at the Winter Haven Walmart Supercenter located at 7450 Cypress Gardens Blvd, found a receipt that included both the fraudulent Credit One credit card and an EBT card on the same transaction. Detectives contacted an FIS company fraud investigator—The FIS Company is a financial services company that contracts with DCF to deliver SNAP benefits via Electronic Benefits Transfer / EBT cards.  The investigator provided the subscriber information on the EBT card.  Detectives verified via Florida DHSMV records that the driver’s license photo of the named EBT card holder was not the same person using the EBT card as seen on Walmart surveillance video.  Polk detectives and FIS investigators discovered the telephone number used to apply for the EBT card and the Credit One card was the same number. The FIS investigator provided PCSO detectives with a list of possible fraudulent EBT cards and all the transactions based on the telephone number and addresses used to apply for the fraudulent EBT card.   

Detectives determined that the phone number on the account was under the name of “Reane Johnson.” Detectives determined through comparison of video surveillance of fraudulent EBT transactions and DHSMV photographic records that the person committing the fraud was 46-year-old Stephanie Reane Johnson Williford of 213 Lincoln Ct. Auburndale.  Detectives also discovered that Stephanie Johnson Williford filed a fraudulent tax return using one of the identity theft victims’ names. Detectives determined that Capital One Bank was defrauded $511.92, the IRS was defrauded $2,599, and the USDA SNAP/EBT program was defrauded a minimum of $1,900.25.  Johnson Williford is receiving $511 in monthly government assistance. Johnson Williford is wanted on numerous charges and is currently being sought by law enforcement. 

Using the list of suspected fraudulent EBT Cards and transactions related to telephone numbers and addresses linked to Johnson Williford, detectives obtained video and receipts from a number of transactions and were able to identify a ring of 7 suspects (including Johnson Williford) in Polk and Highlands Counties committing the EBT Fraud and numerous victims of identity theft. 

One of the 7 suspects, 44-year-old Patrice Joyce Crespo of 607 Ash Street, Auburndale, used a fraudulently obtained EBT card in another person’s name numerous times at area stores, including the Family Dollar store in Auburndale, where she is the assistant store manager. Family Dollar store video shows Crespo processing multiple transactions with the fraudulent EBT card during her regular work hours. Crespo is receiving $194 in monthly government assistance. Patrice Crespo’s identical twin sister, Denise Elaine Crespo, has also been arrested for using fraudulent EBT cards. 

Highlands County

While working with Department of Children and Families and FIS Company investigators, Polk County Sheriff’s detectives developed more EBT fraud suspects. Three suspects were discovered using fraudulent EBT cards in the Sebring / Highlands County area.  Velma Mitchell (62), daughter Latoya Mitchell (41), and grandson Kentravious Mitchell (19), all of Sebring, Florida, used fraudulent EBT cards.  The Mitchells used the cards at Walmart, Publix and Winn Dixie stores in Sebring as well as Walmart and Winn Dixie locations in Avon Park. 

Detectives discovered two women using fraudulent EBT cards in the Poinciana area:  31-year-old Latoya Wesley and 49-year-old Shirley Payne, both of 1227 Nelson Park Court, Poinciana. Both women were arrested in September 2015 and charged with: Scheming to Defraud a Financial Institution, Public Assistance Fraud; Criminal Use of Personal Identification, Fraudulent Use of Credit Card, and Grand Theft.  Wesley has an extensive criminal arrest history including theft, forgery, and scheming to defraud—she was additionally charged with violation of probation and is currently in the Polk County Jail.  Payne had a previous grand theft charge—she is out of jail on bond. Detectives discovered a personnel list of previous employees (with identifying information) of the Foundation School, 1325 George Jenkins Blvd. Lakeland, a former Public charter school (closed in 2010) in the possession of Wesley. Several of Wesley & Payne’s victims were on the list. Wesley is receiving $194 in monthly government assistance and Payne is receiving $163 in monthly government assistance. 

Police Chief’s identity stolen

Detectives also discovered that 61-year-old Royal Clemons of 410 Monroe Lane, Lake Hamilton was using a fraudulent EBT card under the name of Larry Holden, the Chief of Police of the Davenport Police Department, and also the President of the Polk County Police Chief’s Association.  Clemons racked up $555.43 of fraudulent transactions using the EBT card at various stores in the Haines City and Winter Haven area. Clemons was identified because he used the fraudulent EBT card at the Lake Hamilton Dollar General store, where he is a frequent customer and he has used his own identity to purchase items. 

Polk County Deputies are looking for 49-year-old Stephanie Reane Johnson Williford and 26-year-old Chelsey M Williford, last known address on Lincoln Court, Auburndale. Anyone with information about their whereabouts are asked to call the Polk County Sheriff’s Office at 298-6200. Tips may also be emailed to tips@polksheriff.org. ANYONE WITH INFORMATION WHO WANTS TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS AND BE ELIGIBLE FOR A CASH REWARD IS ASKED TO CALL 1-800-226-TIPS or LOG ONTO www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com. ANONYMITY IS GUARANTEED! iPhone and Droid users can download a free tip submit app to anonymously report crime. To install these free apps, please visit www.tipsoft.com. 

The following people have been arrested related to this investigation: 

Shirley D. Payne, 04/22/66

1227 Nelson Park Ct., Poinciana

Arrested: September 14, 2015

Charges:

·         Scheme to Defraud a Financial Institute F2

·         Public Assistance Fraud More Than $200 F3

·         Criminal Use of Personal Identification (2 counts) F3

·         Fraudulent Use of Credit Card (2 counts) F3

·         Grand Theft F3

Government assistance: $163 per month 

Latoya Nikkia Wesley, 6/10/84

1227 Nelson Park Court, Poinciana

Arrested:  September 18, 2015 (still in Polk County Jail)

Charges:

·         Scheme to Defraud a Financial Institution F2

·         Fraudulent Use of Credit Card (2 counts) F3

·         Criminal Use of Personal Identification (2 counts) F3

·         Grand Theft F3

·         VOP

Government assistance: $194 per month 

WANTED:

Stephanie Reane Johnson Williford, 10/26/69

213 Lincoln Court., Auburndale

Active Warrant for arrest is pending

Charges:

·         Illegal Use of Credit Cards More than 2 Times (5 counts) F3

·         Grand Theft (3 counts) F3

·         Criminal Use of Personal Identification (6 counts) F3

·         Forgery F3

·         Scheming to Defraud a Financial Institution (3 counts) F2

·         Public Assistance Fraud More Than $200 F3

Government assistance: $511 per month 

Patrice Joyce Crespo, 10/01/71

607 Ash Street, Auburndale

Arrested: January 21, 2016

Charges:

·         Illegal Use of Credit Cards More than 2 Times F3

·         Grand Theft F3

·         Criminal Use of Personal Identification F3

·         Scheming to Defraud a Financial Institution F2

·         Public Assistance Fraud Greater than $200 F3

Government assistance: $194 per month 

Denise Elaine Crespo

607 Ash Street, Auburndale

Arrested: January 21, 2016

Charges:

·         Illegal Use of Credit Cards More than 2 Times F3

·         Grand Theft F3

·         Criminal Use of Personal Identification F3

·         Scheming to Defraud a Financial Institution F2

·         Public Assistance Fraud Greater than $200 F3

Government assistance: $194 per month 

WANTED:

Chelsey M Williford, 10/18/89

213 Lincoln Court, Auburndale

Active Warrant for arrest is pending

Charges:

·         Illegal Use of Credit Cards More than 2 Times F3

·         Petit Theft M2

·         Criminal Use of Personal Identification (2 counts) F3

·         Scheming to Defraud a Financial Institution F2

·         Public Assistance Fraud M1

Previous criminal arrest history: Contributing to the Delinquency of a minor, Inhale Ingest Harmful Chemicals (2010)

Government assistance: $357 per month 

Junious Leonard IV, 11/16/85

2 Sandy Ln., Auburndale

Arrested: January 21, 2016

Charges:

·         Criminal Use of Personal Identification F3

·         Scheming to Defraud a Financial Institution F2

Previous criminal arrest history: DWLSR (2015, DWLSR (2013), Battery (2009) 

Velma Lee Mitchell, 07/10/53

4519 Starfish Avenue, Sebring

Arrested: January 21, 2016

Charges:

·         Criminal Use of Personal Identification F3

·         Scheming to Defraud a Financial Institution F2 

Latoya Antranice Mitchell, 12/09/74

3226 Valerie Blvd., Sebring

Arrested: January 21, 2016

Charges:

·         Criminal Use of Personal Identification F3

·         Scheming to Defraud a Financial Institution F2

Previous criminal arrest history: Shoplifting (1994) 

Kentravius Deonte Mitchell, 4/17/96

4519 Starfish Avenue, Sebring

Arrested: January 21, 2016

Charges:

·         Criminal Use of Personal Identification F3

·         Scheming to Defraud a Financial Institution F2

Previous criminal arrest history: Grand Theft (2015) 

Royal Clemons, 09/29/54

410 Monroe Lane, Lake Hamilton

Arrested: January 21, 2016

Charges:

·         Illegal Use of Credit Cards More than 2 Times F3

·         Grand Theft F3

·         Criminal Use of Personal Identification F3

·         Scheming to Defraud a Financial Institution F2

·         Public Assistance Fraud Greater than $200 F3

Previous criminal arrest history: Burglary (1977), VOP (1979), FTA DWLSR (1980), Retail Theft, Resisting with Violence, Possession Drugs with Intent to Sell, Petit Theft (1983), Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Sell, Aggravated Battery, Aggravated Assault with a Weapon, Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Sell (1985), Domestic Violence Battery, Resisting Without, Trespass (1997), Burglary, Battery (2002), Trespass, Resisting Without (2004), Possession of Cocaine, Tampering, (2005), DUI (2006), VOP (2007), DUI (2011).

Government assistance: $193 per month 

 

Report Public Assistance Fraud!  We encourage citizens to report suspected fraud. You may be eligible for a reward for providing information relating to public assistance fraud. Go to: https://www.dcf.state.fl.us/programs/pbi/fraud/