What brought this sudden rush of attention? It should come as no surprise that instead of following developments in the federal judicial system, the traditional media failed to write a word until they received a news release from the U. S. Attorney's office.
The case was announced with all sorts of fanfare when the initial indictments were revealed, but then was not mentioned again as one defendant after another pleaded guilty. The media had to wait until the story was handed to them.
This was the news release issued by the U. S. Attorney's office:
John F. Wood, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Kansas City, Mo., man who was formerly incarcerated in a state prison and a Jefferson City, Mo., woman who was formerly employed by the Missouri Department of Revenue were each sentenced in federal court yesterday for participating in a $160,000 fraud conspiracy that involved stealing the identities of other persons and using them to provide cell phone service to state prison inmates.
Clayton J. Deardorff, 30, of Kansas City, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Scott O. Wright to five years and five months in federal prison without parole. Co-defendant Erica Daniece Kelley, 29, of Jefferson City, was sentenced to five years of probation. The court also ordered Deardorff and Kelley to pay more than $160,000 in restitution, for which they are jointly and severally liable.
Deardorff and Kelley are among seven co-defendants charged in a May 31, 2007, federal indictment, all of whom have pleaded guilty. From January 2002 through December 2006, conspirators used stolen identity information, such as names and Social Security numbers, to set up multiple accounts for cell phone service so that inmates at state corrections facilities could communicate with the defendants and others outside prison.
Among the identity theft victims were mentally disabled and other residents of group homes in Jefferson City and Columbia, Mo., Sprint customers, and Missourians whose information was stolen by two employees of the state Department of Revenue. The fraud scheme resulted in more than $80,000 in unpaid telephone charges as well as additional losses for credit card accounts that were opened using stolen identities.
Co-defendant Angie Marie Roark, 30, of New Bloomfield, Mo., was sentenced on Feb. 5, 2008, to five years and 10 months in federal prison without parole. Co-defendant Brenda McKay Adams, 34, of Jefferson City, was sentenced on Feb. 5, 2008, to five years of probation. Roark and Adams are also jointly and severally liable for more than $160,000 in restitution.
Clayton Deardorff was incarcerated at various Missouri prisons, including the Tipton, Mo., Correctional Facility. Clayton Deardorff recruited his wife, Robin Lynette Deardorff, 32, of Kansas City, and others to steal identity information so he and others inside prison could make telephone calls. Robin Deardorff worked at a Jefferson City nursing home operated by New Horizons Community Support Services, Inc., where she had access to identity information of residents of the home. Robin Deardorff stole this information to set up the phone lines and order cell phones. A sentencing hearing for Robin Deardorff has not yet been scheduled.
Kelley was an employee of the Missouri Department of Revenue, Motor Vehicle Bureau until January 2003. In this position, she had access to identification of Motor Vehicle Bureau customers, which she delivered to co-conspirators during the scheme. Kelley admitted that she provided conspirators with personal information from 10 to 15 individuals.
Roark was an employee of Sprint PCS at various times, where she had access to identity information of Sprint customers. Her position at Sprint and her knowledge of the company's methods and operating procedures enabled her to assist the other conspirators in the scheme. In addition, she had land lines installed and cell phones delivered to her residence as part of the scheme.
Adams participated in the conspiracy during 2005 and 2006 by using her home address to have telephone lines installed and cell phones delivered, all of which had been ordered as part of the fraud scheme.
Co-defendant Krystal G. Stephens, 22, of Jefferson City, was a part-time employee of the Missouri Department of Revenue, Division of Taxation and Collection from 2003 to 2005 and had access to identification information of division customers. She delivered 10 to 20 names and Social Security numbers to co-conspirators as part of the scheme.
Co-defendant Anna M. Stephens, 31, of Jefferson City, the sister of Krystal Stephens, was an employee of United Telephone Company (Sprint) at various times, where she had access to customers' identification information and knowledge of the company's methods and operating procedures. She used that information to assist the conspirators in their scheme, and also had phone lines installed and cell phones delivered to her residence.
Sentencing hearings for Krystal Stephens and Anna Stephens have not yet been scheduled.
Prisoners in the Missouri Department of Corrections are allowed to make calls while confined, but have to have a method to pay for the calls. Often this is done by making collect calls. Conspirators set up phone lines and purchased cell phones using the stolen identities so that inmates could make the collect calls. The calls from the prison would then be automatically directed and forwarded from a local number to a cell phone. Generally the fraudulently-opened telephone services would continue until the telephone company canceled the service for non-payment.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Anthony P. Gonzalez. It was investigated by the Missouri Attorney General's Office, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development - Office of Inspector General.
If this was a simple criminal case, I would have no problem with waiting for the U. S. Attorney's office. But this was far more than that. This was a case, as The Turner Report noted numerous times that involved the compromising of Missourians' personal information, primarily due to a lack of effort by our state agencies to do simple background checks of those who are hired to handle this information.
As I wrote in the June 14, 2007, Turner Report, state officials said this type of background check can take eight to 12 weeks:
Perhaps someone needs to give our state bureaucrats a lesson on how to do a simple background check. It only took The Turner Report five minutes (not one month or eight to 12 weeks) to uncover enough information to sound warning bells about the prospect of Mrs. Deardorff working for the state government, or in any position of responsibility, for that matter.
A simple check of case.net shows eight listings for Mrs. Deardorff, including seven criminal charges. The oldest charge, dating back to 1993, was for misdemeanor stealing, for which she received five days in jail and was placed on probation.
Two years later, Mrs. Deardorff received 30 days in jail for endangering the welfare of a child, not exactly the type of activity that seems in keeping with the Family Support Division of the Department of Social Services.
The remainder of the criminal charges involve annual charges of driving while revoked from 2003 through 2006, with the last three times involving the use of electronic shackles in lieu of jail time.
In 2005, she also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of passing a bad check.
It would not have taken long for a background check to uncover the news that Mrs. Deardorff's husband (and co-defendant) Clayton Deardorff, is an unwilling guest in a Missouri state penitentiary.
Would it be too much to ask the people in charge of hiring state employees to at least conduct a five-minute Case.net check before using taxpayers' money to hire undesirable workers?
The following day, I discovered more about Ms. Deardorff by running a case.net check on her maiden name:
On July 13, 1995, she pleaded guilty to misdemeanor stealing charges and was placed on supervised probation for two years. This was the second time she had pleaded guilty to a stealing charge.
Despite all of this easily obtainable information, Robin Deardorff had access to sensitive personal information.
It would be bad enough if Ms. Deardorff was the only one who slipped through the cracks, but that would not take into account one of her co-defendants, Krystal Stephens, a former employee of the Missouri Department of Revenue's Division of Taxation. As I noted in the Aug. 2, 2007, Turner Report:
During a statement she made to federal and state officials, Ms. Stephens admitted to providing personal information from state files to her sister and to Robin Deardorff so they could buy cellphones to use to talk to their prisoner boyfriends. Ms. Stephens said, "She said she didn't use many, but she shouldn't have used any and it was partly my fault, but I don't work there anymore and don't plan to and would work there in that environment and put myself in my predicament any more. I want my high school diploma and to do hair."
Since when does the Missouri Department of Revenue hire people to handle sensitive information who do not even have high school diplomas? Did anyone even ask Ms. Stephens questions about her educational background before she was hired?
Who knows how many more people like Robin Deardorff and Krystal Stephens are lurking in our state agencies, with unfettered access to our personal information. This is a story the media should have jumped on immediately and still have time to do.
Don't wait for someone to issue a news release. It's not going to happen.