Federal investigators said they traced an identity-theft ring in Charlotte to several Instagram posts showing individuals convicted of felonies posing with guns at local shooting ranges.
Now two of them are going to prison.
Twyjuan Demetric Jenkins, 29, was sentenced Wednesday to 2 1/2 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to aggravated identity-theft charges last year. His co-conspirator, 23-year-old Andrell Nachef Walker, was sentenced May 19 to more than three years on charges of felony possession of a firearm. They were also ordered to jointly pay $75,150 in restitution.
Charges against a third person, Tyquis Syjuan Jenkins, are still pending, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina.
Defense attorneys appointed to represent Twyjuan Jenkins and Walker did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment Thursday.
The case dates to 2018, when several local and federal agencies began investigating an identity-theft ring based in Charlotte.
They discovered people were obtaining the birthdays, Social Security numbers and addresses of individuals by stealing their mail or looking at real estate listings. The identity-theft ring then used that information to create cloned payment cards and take out cash advances or cash fraudulent checks, prosecutors said.
Detectives with the Financial Crimes Task Force developed several suspects, including Tyquis Jenkins, Twyjuan Jenkins and Walker, investigators said in court filings. All three were previously convicted felons charged with obtaining property by false pretenses or conspiring to commit larceny of a motor vehicle.
They were also barred from possessing firearms.
While monitoring their social media accounts in early February 2020, agents reportedly discovered several pictures of the men holding guns at two different shooting ranges — Point Blank Range in Matthews and Blackstone Shooting Sports in Charlotte.
“Twyjuan Jenkins, Tyquis Jenkins, and Antrell Walker took turns shooting and posing for photographs and videos with the Springfield Pistol, Remington Shotgun and Angstadt Rifle, which photographs and videos they then posted to social media accounts,” prosecutors said.
Investigators went to the shooting ranges and confirmed with employees that the guns in the photographs were rentals. They also showed investigators what names and forms of ID the men had used to get in to the facilities.
One of the names they reportedly used belonged to someone in California who had their identity stolen, officials said.
Investigators said the trio was able to get $95,000 in credit from banks, retailers and car rental companies during the course of the alleged fraud. They’re also accused of using cloned bank cards to make 70 different cash withdrawals totaling more than $74,000 between February and March 2018. In addition to the shooting ranges, prosecutors said they used the stolen personal information to lease apartments and rent hotel rooms.
Prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against Tyquis Jenkins, Twyjuan Jenkins and Walker in March 2020, court filings show. Walker and Twyjuan Jenkins pleaded guilty to separate charges in July and September, respectively.
At the request of federal prosecutors, Magistrate Judge David S. Cayer ordered Walker remain in Mecklenburg County Jail pending the outcome of his case. The judge cited Walker’s prior criminal history, lack of stable employment and previous attempts to evade law enforcement in issuing the order.
Walker penned a note to the judge in February asking for compassionate release. In the handwritten letter, he said he has sickle cell disease and doesn’t believe he is getting adequate medical care. He also said he had COVID-19 in December and hasn’t felt the same since.
“I’m just sitting down here and nobody’s doing anything about it and I don’t know who to talk to because nobody in this jail is looking out for my health,” Walker said in the letter.
U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. — who oversaw the case — denied his request, saying Walker would be sentenced soon and could raise his concerns at the hearing. It wasn’t immediately clear in court filings if his health concerns were addressed at that hearing.