Leader of crime team that hit Bellevue and other areas sentenced
By NAT LEVY
Bellevue Reporter Staff Writer
September 15, 2010 · 11:02 AM
The "ring-leader" of a team of thieves that allegedly robbed commercial buildings all over the Northwest was sentenced to 97 months, more than eight years, in prison.
Antoine Lamont Lawrence, who used the alias Tony Montana from the popular crime movie, Scarface, pled guilty to one count of bank fraud in May and was sentenced this week to the time in prison along with damages of more than $680,000.
Court documents indicated that between 2001 and 2007, Lawrence and his associates stole from offices in cities in 11 states, including Bellevue. Members of the team would go into offices during business hours and find a way to take either a master key or key card to gain entrance after hours.
After rummaging through desks to steal business checks, credit cards, account passwords, and personal information, Lawrence and his team would recruit check cashers to walk into banks to cash the stolen checks in amounts ranging from a few thousand dollars to $50,000 per check, according to court documents. The team often struck businesses on Friday nights, so they could cash stolen checks at banks on Saturday mornings when victim businesses were closed and unavailable to answer calls from the banks.
Team members also shopped with the stolen credit cards, buying Rolex watches, designer clothes and high-end electronics, or traveled to Las Vegas or area casinos to obtain cash advances on the stolen cards.
“For this ring of brazen thieves, law enforcement has put an end to the days of Rolexes and designer suits – bought with other peoples’ money,” said U.S. Attorney Dwight C. Holton. “There’s an important lesson for us all: even behind locked doors at the office, if you must leave valuables and personal information at work, make sure it is protected – not just in a locked desk, but in a safe.”
During the course of the investigation law enforcement officials executed 20 search warrants in four states, resulting in the seizure of, among other things, firearms, stolen prescription drugs, two marijuana grows, valuable jewelry, luxury automobiles, and high-end electronics and computer equipment. Nine members of this team were indicted on federal charges, and an additional 10 associated with the team were convicted of state charges.
Nat Levy can be reached at 425-453-4290.Contact Bellevue Reporter Staff Writer Nat Levy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-453-4290.