2 Felony Lane Gang thieves guilty of bank fraud in southern Maine: How women were targeted

Two Florida men associated with the so-called Felony Lane Gang each face up to 30 years in prison and $1 million in fines after both recently pleaded guilty to committing bank fraud in southern Maine, according to local police and the Maine U.S. Attorney’s Office.

On Monday, Fort Lauderdale resident Leonardo Cameron, 27, pleaded guilty in federal court to committing bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, aggravated identity theft and being a felon in possession of a firearm, a charge stemming from an arrest in Florida, according to the Maine U.S. Attorney’s Office. In U.S. District Court in Portland on Friday, Nov. 18, Travis McNair, 26, also of Fort Lauderdale, pleaded guilty to committing bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

Closeup of gavel in courtroom
Closeup of gavel in courtroom

Both men additionally face up to five years of supervised release following their prison time.

Leading the investigations into Cameron and McNair was the Eliot Police Department following an incident in town more than two years ago.

Women in newer or more expensive cars picking up kids victimized

Eliot police Sgt. Ronald Lund, a lead investigator on the case, called Cameron a "recruiter" for the notorious Felony Lane Gang, a Florida-based group of thieves who travel the country and commit financial crimes typically by conducting “smash and grab” thefts, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Lund, who has investigated the Felony Lane Gang since the fall of 2020, said the thieves predominantly target women driving “high-end or newer” vehicles and strike when they leave their car unattended.

The Maine U.S. Attorney’s Office states that in November 2020, Cameron, McNair and their co-conspirators broke into empty vehicles, stole identifying information like driver’s licenses and checkbooks, then used the identifications to cash the stolen checks at several bank drive-through lanes in southern Maine.

2021 story:York police warn of 'Felony Lane Gang' return to southern Maine

“It started in the fall of 2020, and basically it’s a group that was up from Florida that, over several weeks, would go around breaking into vehicles,” Lund said. “They would target women driving these vehicles when they would go into daycares and run in to pick up their kids, or run into the gym, go on a walking trail, go to the doctor’s office. Guys would sit and wait and selectively pick their victims.”

Lund said the small group would rent vehicles, drive to Maine from the South, stay in local hotels and break into unattended vehicles to steal purses, checkbooks and forms of identification. A few weeks later, female co-conspirators would use the victim’s identifications, go to banks with wigs or dyed hair to impersonate the victims, and would present the stolen checks.

“As part of the scheme, checks from one theft victim’s account were made payable to another identity theft victim, and a female co-conspirator impersonated the identity theft victims to cash the stolen checks,” the Maine U.S. Attorney’s Office wrote in separate news releases about Cameron and McNair.

Eliot police became involved in October 2020 after staff at Kennebunk Savings Bank noticed a man crawling around the outside of an empty vehicle driven by a woman picking up her child at a daycare, Lund said. Despite the culprit getting away, town police got the man’s license plate number from a camera on a bus in the area.

Investigation involved Seacoast NH police, too

Over the last two years, police departments throughout New England have been collaborating with Eliot police as reports of similar fraudulent activity were reported. Lund noted that the list of local southern Maine police departments includes Ogunquit, Kittery, South Berwick, York, Kennebunkport, Biddeford and Scarborough, while police from across the New Hampshire border in Portsmouth, Dover, Rochester, Newmarket, Exeter, Stratham, Durham, Somersworth and Rye also were involved.

“In this case, all the agencies were talking about it, and I think this is why this was so successful,” Lund said.

In July 2020, according to the Maine U.S. Attorney’s Office, Cameron engaged in similar conduct in Oregon but with a team of different co-conspirators. A few months later, when he was arrested in Florida on Oregon federal bank fraud and identity theft charges, Cameron was found to be in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

2018 reporting:Police: Felony Lane Gang stealing from moms

Due to a prior felony conviction, Cameron is not allowed to have a firearm or ammunition.

“Cameron agreed to transfer jurisdiction over the Florida and Oregon charges to the District of Maine for the purpose of entering guilty pleas to all pending federal charges,” the Maine U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Between Cameron, McNair and their co-conspirators, Lund said, the thieves obtained just under $30,000 in stolen money from southern Maine.

Assisting Eliot police in Cameron’s case were the FBI in Portland, Maine, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations in Portland, Oregon, and Homeland Security Investigations in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

In McNair’s case, the Eliot Police Department was aided by the FBI.

Both Cameron and McNair are being held at the Strafford County jail in Dover, New Hampshire, according to Eliot police, and both will be sentenced by a federal district judge after presentence investigation reports are produced by the U.S. Probation Office.

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Southern Maine women targeted by Felony Lane Gang thieves