The Utah Attorney General’s SECURE Strike Force arrested two people today for allegedly operating a phony identification mill out of their home in White City. William Welcher, 38, and Brandi Luckau, 41, are suspected of possessing identification cards and checks belonging to other people in order to create fraudulent ID cards and checks.
According to court documents, Strike Force agents seized a computer with scanned images of 28 lawfully issued identification cards and a handwritten checklist on forgery. They also discovered that the victims’ personal information was being used to create fraudulent driver’s licenses, check stubs and bank checks.
“It is fortunate the SECURE Strike Force was able to shutter this operation at the beginning before more people got hurt,” says Attorney General John Swallow. “You may just be a name and number to ID thieves, but they can cause long lasting damage in a short amount of time.”
Melissa Elder was eight-months pregnant when she went hiking for a half-hour in Cottonwood Canyon with her husband and friends. When they returned, the car window was smashed and Elder’s purse with identification cards, check books, family photos and a $50 Cheesecake Factory gift card was gone.
“It made me feel like the world was no longer safe,” says Elder. “It also taught me not to carry so many important records with me.” Elder moved to Utah from Canada and she said it took a long time to get new ID cards and to make sure her credit was protected.
A Cottonwood Heights mother also had her purse stolen that contained her ID cards as well as the social security numbers of her three young boys. “It made my heart drop. This was such a nightmare, especially having my children’s identities stolen,” says the mother, who asked not to be identified. “I was so upset and I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”
Welcher was arrested on one second-degree felony count, seven third-degree felony counts and one class A misdemeanor involving identity fraud and stolen property. Luckau is facing the same charges, plus two first-degree felony drug distribution counts. Assistant Attorney General Gregory Ferbrache is prosecuting the case for the SECURE Strike Force.
“Most of the real identity cards that were scanned into the defendants’ computer belonged to victims of car burglaries,” says Strike Force Special Agent Nate Mutter. “ID thieves will smash in car windows if they see a wallet or purse laying on a seat. It can be a real pain to try and clear up your credit for something you didn’t do.”
All identity theft victims are urged to use the Attorney General’s nationally recognized website—IRIS—Identity Theft Reporting Information System—for help. IRIS allows victims to send identity theft complaints directly to the proper law enforcement agency and it provides a checklist of things to do to resolve credit problems. IRIS can be found at http://www.idtheft.utah.gov.
The SECURE Strike Force was launched in June 2009 to target major crimes by undocumented residents. The Drug Enforcement Agency contacted the Strike Force after agents seized some ID cards belonging to people with unknown residency statuses. All defendants should be considered innocent unless they are found guilty in a court of law.
Booking photos of William Welcher and Brandy Luckau