Suspects hack into criminal courts computer to rob identities

Suspects hack into criminal courts computer to rob identities

Gunnels, left, and Bowie, right, are accused of hacking into the criminal courts information system to steal identifying information.

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by Nikki Metzgar

khou.com

Posted on April 30, 2012 at 11:58 PM

HOUSTON—Two men have been accused of hacking into the Harris County Justice Information Management System (JIMS) to steal identifying information before using it to open credit.

Donald Ray Gunnels, 38, and Mcstimey Lee Bowie, 36, have been charged with breach of computer security. Bowie is in custody while Gunnels remains at large.

Investigators first found identifying information of other parties on Gunnels when a Houston police officer approached him for loitering on the 600 block of Gulf Bank for loitering on July 14, 2011. As the officer approached, Gunnels threw a glass crack pipe. When the officer retrieved Gunnels’ wallet, he found identifying information for seven different people.

The officer discovered that they had been victims of identity left and that they all worked at Houston car dealership and had recently filed for divorce.

Gunnels was arrested for fraudulent use of identifying information and admitted to using a JIMS log-in that he had obtained from Mike Cox’s Bail Bonds without the owner’s knowledge. JIMS is a repository for confidential legal documents and by using JIMS, Gunnels could access divorce decrees that contained that information.

Gunnels referred to JIMS as his "honey hole," and further admitted to targeting people he had formerly worked with or for at car dealerships, according to investigators.

He was also able to use Credit Jockey, an online credit application system used by multiple Randall Reed Dealerships, to access identifying information. Gunnels had not worked at Randall Reed since August 2010 and did not have permission to use the system.

Bowie was a manager at Mike Cox’s Bail Bonds, and police believe he shared the JIMS log-in information with Gunnels. Mike Cox spoke with investigators and told them that his JIMS billing had been unusually high and that his phone bills had included several collect calls from San Antonio, where Gunnels spent time in jail.

The two suspects allegedly used the identifying information gathered from JIMS to open credit at stores including Best Buy, Billiards Factory, Home Depot, Lowes and Kohl’s.

Bowie spoke with investigators but denied giving JIMS log-in information to Gunnels and claims that they had not spoken in quite some time. He admitted to knowing that Gunnels was in Bexel County Jail in San Antonio at the time.

A recorded phone call between Bowie and Gunnels while the latter was in jail revealed a conversation in which Bowie told Gunnels that the JIMS bill was high because there is a charge associated with logging on. Gunnels then advises Bowie to retrieve goods from a shared storage unit.

The defendants referenced accessing JIMS between December 5, 2011 and January 23, 2012, when Gunnels was taken into Bexar County, San Antonio, according to police.

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