Covington Police Department Detective Daniel Seals has seen many cases of identity theft throughout his career, but nothing quite like the case he came across a couple weeks ago.
CPD officers discovered a wide-ranging identity theft and financial fraud ring, potentially stretching across multiple states and countries, when they arrested two men on April 25 - a case the FBI is now investigating.
Phinda Sibanda, 33, was arrested April 25 at the Citibank in Covington on Turner Lake Road when he came in to take out a loan using someone else's social security number.
CitiFinancial contacted Seals earlier, alerting him that Sibanda fraudulently received a $12,500 loan using someone else's identification at their Marietta branch. Seals and CPD officers were waiting for Sibanda as he sat down to sign the papers in the Covington branch. He was placed under arrest with no resistance but refused to talk with officers.
When they searched his vehicle, however, they began to realize Sibanda was involved in a much larger and sophisticated scheme than the run-of-the-mill ID thief, as they found copious amounts of documents and papers in the car.
CPD officers visited a Newton County address they found on the documents, 95 Riverstone Drive, and found another man, Enock Dee Nyambe, 33, reportedly involved in the operation at the house along with much more documentation.
Seals described the house as being more of a storage place than a living space.
Just from the papers at hand, Seals described the operation as easily being worth more than $1 million.
"Houses, cars, bank accounts, you name it," he said.
Though identity theft is all-too prevalent, the level of sophistication in this scheme was unique, said Seals.
"I work a lot of ID theft," he said. "This is an interesting ring in that most ID thieves have one way that they like to do it and stick with that. These guys were more advanced. They had multiple ways of stealing IDs, multiple ways of using IDs, multiple things they were taking. These guys were going for mortgages to car loans to bank accounts, to credit cards."
Both men were immigrants from Botswana, with Sibanda having arrived eight years ago and outstayed his visa. Nyambe reportedly arrived only a few days ago. Both are being held at the Newton County Detention Center for the immigrations and customs enforcement.
FBI spokesperson Stephen Emmett declined to comment much on the case since it was still being investigated, but confirmed that the FBI conducted a search warrant and found evidence that an identity theft scheme was in progress.
Seals said he appreciated the fact the Citi Financial employees were proactive in alerting the CPD before Sibanda arrived.
Some con-artists seem to think they can get away with more in a smaller place like Covington, said Seals. "From other folks I've spoken to, they tell me, it seems like a quiet town where you can do things like this and not be noticed and be under the radar," he said. "It's obviously not proving to be such."