Local man arrested on suspicion of identity theft
by Rebecca Johnston
rjohnston@cherokeetribune.com
October 04, 2012 01:12 AM | 2910 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WOODSTOCK — A local man is behind bars facing 16 counts of identity theft and one count of theft of services after a year-long investigation by the Woodstock Police Department and several federal agencies.

The man, Rashan Lawhorne, 37, allegedly used compromised credit cards to fraudulently purchase airline tickets and offer them to travelers at a discounted rate, according to investigators with Woodstock’s Criminal Investigation Unit.

Lawhorne was arrested Wednesday morning at his home in the Brookshire subdivision in Woodstock.

The investigation began after a complaint made by Air Tran Airways in 2011 regarding fraudulent activities in the purchase of airline tickets from the company, Detective Manny de la Torre said.

“He was obtaining credit card numbers from a third party and using them to purchase airline tickets which he sold to legitimate passengers at a discount,” de la Torre said.

The suspect originally placed an ad for the discounted tickets on Craig’s List, and later sold tickets by word of mouth and referrals from previous customers, de la Torre said.

During the period of April through August 2011, the minimum loss to Air Tran is estimated to be at least $30,000, de la Torre said.

“He took cash, money order, PayPal payments, and then would send the customer a reservation number and that person could then print a boarding pass,” de la Torre said.

The airlines began to figure out that American Express cardholders were having claims of fraud, and saw those reservations were coming back to a specific person, the detective said.

“They would stop a person at the gate, and question them,” de la Torre said. “Air Tran was able to provide us with source document, we started looking at that, and that pointed to this suspect. We then saw other fraudulent activity, such as setting up Internet provider accounts.”

The Woodstock Police served a search warrant at the house in 2011 and seized the suspect’s computers. The computers provided evidence that corroborated Air Tran’s information, the detective said.

“He didn’t have possession of cards, a third party was providing all that info, complete records of the card holders. American Express said they did not have a breach, it could be from a bank or overseas. That information came to a dead end,” de la Torre said.

The investigation also involved the cooperation of several Federal law enforcement agencies, the Cherokee County District Attorney’s office, banks, credit card companies, as well as other airlines.

The transactions not only represented a loss to the airline, but also compromised hundreds of cardholders, some as far as South Dakota, de la Torre said.

The detective said more charges are pending.

Lawhorne was being held at the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Adult Detention Center on $110,000 bond.
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