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Tampa credit union manager charged with running identity theft and fraud scheme

TAMPA — Monday through Friday he sat behind a branch manager's desk at a Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union, and on Sunday he stood on the pulpit of House of Praise Church of God in Christ.

But detectives say Donnell Dewitt Williams abused the trust of both positions to dole out more than $400,000 in fraudulent loans to family, friends and parishioners and skim more than $50,000 for himself.

Williams, 36, of 12412 Midpoint Drive, Riverview, was arrested Wednesday along with three of his church members, and charged with grand theft, identity theft and money laundering by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office economic crimes unit.

Detectives said three church members and longtime friends of Williams' acted as recruiters for the scam and were not employed by the credit union.

Kenta Rashawn Fabian, 23, Larry Grace, 38, and Erick Rashad Barr, 31, all of Tampa, were charged with identity theft and third-degree grand theft.

Sgt. David Fleet said the scam worked like this:

The men would encourage a church member or relative in need of money to take out a small loan with the credit union.

Williams would take their information and make a loan application for them, sometimes falsifying information to get it approved.

Williams then gave the person some of the money and kept some for himself, which he laundered by depositing in other active loan accounts before withdrawing it. The three recruiters got loans from Williams using information on other people, including family members. Out of 400 accounts examined, detectives say, 120 were fraudulent.

Detectives say Williams started at Suncoast in 2004 and served as the manager of the credit union branch at 3044 College Ave in Ruskin from 2007 until he was fired in February the day the investigation began. He also worked at the credit union at 6804 E Hillsborough Ave.

The credit union's risk management team contacted deputies after a customer complained of having a loan on a credit report at an address where he never lived, Fleet said. "After reviewing several more suspicious accounts, it became obvious there was something wrong."

After he was fired, Williams continued to pastor at the church, which rents its space from a church at 6501 N Nebraska Ave., Fleet said. And he became a substitute teacher in Hillsborough County schools.

Williams' eligibility to work as a substitute teacher was revoked as soon as the school district learned of his arrest, said spokesman Stephen Hegarty.

Only Grace remained in jail Wednesday night. Williams, Fabian and Barr each posted bail and were released.

Times staff writer Thomas Marshall contributed to this report.

Tampa credit union manager charged with running identity theft and fraud scheme 07/08/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 9, 2009 12:04am]
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