Thursday, December 14, 2017
Public safety

Pasco authorities accuse couple of extensive mail fraud

NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County deputies arrested a man and woman suspected of stealing personal information from mailboxes and using it to commit fraud.

Brian Michael Chipman, 29, of Hammond, Ind., was charged with various fraud-related offenses, burglary and 13 counts of stolen credit cards on Jan. 29. His girlfriend, Shelly Johnson, was also arrested on similar charges.

According to Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, Chipman drove past houses in Gulf Harbors, in New Port Richey, after midnight in a rental car with no plates and the lights off. When he was pulled over, deputies found multiple pieces of mail with personal information. They also found checkbooks, credit cards, bank statements and Social Security numbers, Nocco said.

Chipman told deputies he was checking for gift cards, according to an arrest report, but only to buy food.

Investigators believe Chipman was looking for debit cards and possibly planning to file fraudulent tax returns. Detectives located at least 11 names of people in the Tampa Bay area.

In jail, Chipman spoke to Johnson on the phone and told her "we should have a bonfire." Detectives went to the couple's residence in Moon Lake and found more stolen mail — including the names of more than 900 victims and around 3,000 pieces of stolen mail.

Law enforcement agencies in surrounding jurisdictions are being contacted, and sheriff's officials said they are combing through their own incident reports, looking for related cases.

The crime spans all four counties in the Tampa Bay area, Detective Justin Ross said, and the locations seem to be random.

Chipman is being held in lieu of $10,000 bail at the Land O'Lakes jail, the Sheriff's Office said. He was charged with scheme to defraud, fraudulent use of personal information and failure to return a rented vehicle. Johnson bailed out of jail after being charged with tampering with evidence and possession of an ID that doesn't belong to her.

Ross said authorities are investigating whether more people are involved, and he urged citizens to be vigilant about mail habits. Try to meet the mailman, if possible, and be aware of incoming letters that could potentially be used to steal an identity.

"Don't leave your mail in the mailbox overnight," he said.

Comments
Bob’s Carpet and Flooring heir was source of family strife before arrest

Bob’s Carpet and Flooring heir was source of family strife before arrest

An heir to a local flooring company charged with failing to report the death of a young woman last year has a troubled criminal history and was a source of strife in his family business, according to court records.Robert Butler III, 52, was arrested ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Horrified friends watch screaming woman driven to her death in Plant City

Horrified friends watch screaming woman driven to her death in Plant City

PLANT CITY — Jonathon Adams heard a scream, "like a dog getting run over by a car," then saw a minivan come tearing around the corner with a woman he knew dangling out of the passenger side.It was the start of a deadly sequence of events Dec. 8 that ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Dade City man turns himself in on warrants for Polk armed robbery

Dade City man turns himself in on warrants for Polk armed robbery

DADE CITY — A 25-year-old man wanted in connection with the attempted robbery of a taxi driver in Lakeland turned himself in late Wednesday night after being prompted by his mother, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.Edner Dely of Dade Ci...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Deputies: Fleeing suspect shoots, injures dog as he runs through yards

DOVER — While fleeing from deputies, a man shot a dog inside a fenced yard Thursday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said they were attempting to pull over a vehicle that might have been stolen near Milagro Court and Bl...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Amtrak train strikes, kills 60-year-old woman in Lakeland

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death of a 60-year-old woman who was hit by an Amtrak train on Thursday.The woman was struck at 12:30 p.m. in the railroad intersection of Highway 92 East and Fairway Avenue in Lakeland, deputies ...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Palm Harbor woman, 23, killed while crossing Seminole Boulevard

SEMINOLE — A 23-year-old Palm Harbor woman was fatally injured when she was struck by a sport-utility vehicle while crossing Seminole Boulevard on Wednesday night, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.The incident took place at about 8:4...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Second Ruskin man sought in theft of cell tower equipment that interrupted service

TAMPA —The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has obtained a warrant for the arrest of a second suspect in the theft of batteries from cell phone towers that interrupted phone service and the 911 emergency call system.Investigators are looking for ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Florida Missing Child Alert canceled for Jacksonville boy, 2

Florida Missing Child Alert canceled for Jacksonville boy, 2

A Jacksonville boy, 2, who was reported missing early Thursday morning, has been found safe.A Florida Missing Child Alert has been canceled for Legend Jones, who had last been seen in the 1900 block of Fouraker Road in Jacksonville, according to the ...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Crash downs power lines, closes N Florida Avenue in downtown Tampa

TAMPA — A portion of North Florida Avenue is closed in downtown Tampa as TECO crews repair downed power lines after a crash late Wednesday night.The crash occurred around 11:35 p.m. at the intersection of N Florida Avenue and E Fortune Street, accord...
Published: 12/14/17

HCSO continues homeless outreach efforts

BRANDON — A cool crisp breeze swept through the morning grounds of the New Hope Methodist Church as individuals stood in line wearing sweatshirts, jeans and other warm attire as they waited to receive assistance.Deputies from the Hillsborough County ...
Updated: 3 hours ago