Harris County Sherriff’s Office employees targeted by alleged ID thief

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by Drew Karedes / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on February 4, 2014 at 11:11 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 4 at 11:20 PM

HOUSTON -- A 38-year-old Houston man is in jail after accusations that he stole the identities of at least 23 people.

Prosecutors confirm seven of those victims are employed by the Harris County Sherriff’s Office.

Suspect Benjamin Barran had been out of jail on bond on some other identity theft cases.

He was rearrested when he appeared in court on Tuesday. The arrest came after prosecutors say they learned that Barran was responsible for a whole lot more than originally known.

“If he could get the identifying information of people in law enforcement, he can certainly do that with regular folks,” said prosecutor Aimee Bolletino with Harris County Organized Crimes Division.

Prosecutor Aimee Bolletino says it’s not clear how Barran stole the personal information of the Harris County Sherriff’s Office employees.

“You don’t see the type of thief we typically associate with theft because this person has to give off an air of trustworthiness in order for them to be successful at using other peoples’ information,” explained Bolletino.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office has not said what departments the Harris County Sherriff’s Office employees worked in.

A victim, who doesn’t work in law enforcement, says she was victimized after a burglary at her home last summer.

“It’s awful to think of someone walking around your house,” said Carol Streatfeild. “I did my best to put it behind me and say it happened.”

Streatfeild was not able to put it behind her.

She learned that her stolen laptop was being used to victim her family and others around her.

“[The investigator] called up and said, do you know, and he would give a name. I would say, that’s my son. He said, do you know this person. I said, yes that’s my employee,” recalled Streatfeild.

Streatfeild’s husband, her 18-year-old son and five of her employees are included in the list of nearly two dozen victims.

“It was pretty recently that I realized it was that big,” she said.

Her family owns the British Isles Shop in Rice Village.

Streatfeild had been keeping employee payroll information on the laptop that was stolen. She believes that’s Barran gained access to their information.

“It’s really frightening to see how much information one person can accrue over time and from so many people,” said British Isles employee Sarah Purtee.

Sarah Purtee says she began receiving credit cards she never signed up for. One of them had a photograph on it of a woman she doesn’t recognize.

“He should be ashamed of himself,” said Purtee.

Investigators were originally tipped off by Barran’s ex wife. She reportedly suspected him of breaking into her home and stealing her identity.

Court documents say Barran was using a Dropbox account to store his victims’ information and the lines of credit he opened in their names.

Authorities also reportedly found instructions on how to find PIN codes for credit cards, how to access security codes and how to counterfeit driver’s licenses.

Barran is currently behind held without bond.

He’s due in court on Friday.

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