FLORISSANT, Mo. – Florissant police are crediting a minor traffic stop with uncovering a large, cross-country identity theft operation.
It started near the James J. Eagan Center, where police stopped 22-year-old Joshua Powell. He reportedly had so many bizarre things in his car, it led law enforcement to a bigger discovery.
“He was trying to conceal his identity, for now what we now believe – he was on a crime spree,” Officer Steve Michael said.
The suspect’s ID seemed fake. But police noticed other things.
“…Miscellaneous type of IDs and checks that shouldn’t have been in the vehicle, and they went with it. It led them to a local motel,” Michael said.
The suspect, from Florida, said he was staying at a motel on Dunn Road. When police arrived, they claim to have found three other potential suspects in two rooms.
A probable cause statement says police also found a “large number of state ID cards, credit cards, and checks, in the names of various people, none of which were the defendants.”
All told, police discovered 86 suspected fraudulent checks.
FOX 2 spoke with one of the victims, who did not want to be identified, but said her car was broken into in Wentzville and had her ID stolen. Next thing she knew, someone bought a car in her name in Nashville, Illinois.
“A lot of these identities and credit cards and check books were stolen from vehicles,” Michael said.
“It makes me think a lot about where I’m gonna park,” St. Charles County resident Waun Jones said.
Jones said he’s thankful for the bust.
“Crazy! I mean, people out here that’s taking from people who work hard for their stuff. I guess that’s just the life we live in St. Louis,” he said.
Police also claim they found capsules in the motel rooms containing fentanyl.
“This is why we do this work,” St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell said.
Bell’s office charged the four defendants—Tabatha Deuser, Joshua Powell, Jessica Anderson, Ryan Cartwright—with felony trafficking in stolen identities. Deuser, Powell, and Anderson were also charged with felony drug possession.
“This could’ve resulted in lost lives,” Bell said. “We know how dangerous fentanyl and some of these drugs are.”
“When the red flags go off—and typically there’s not just one—there’s more, so we followed that path, and it was just good police work,” Michael said.