Conspirators sentenced in cell-phone fraud scheme

Monday, March 17, 2008 | 8:46 p.m. CDT; updated 8:21 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

COLUMBIA — Two conspirators in a $160,000 fraud scheme involving former state employees, incarcerated prisoners and cell phone company workers were sentenced for stealing the identities of mentally handicapped people in local group homes, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Clayton J. Deardorff, 30, of Kansas City was sentenced Monday to five years and five months in federal prison without parole for his role in the crime. Erica D. Kelley, 29, of Jefferson City was sentenced to five years of probation.

Both Deardorff and Kelley pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges after being charged in a May 31, 2007, indictment.

Deardorff and Kelley were among seven players that were charged with using and stealing the identities of group home members in Jefferson City and Columbia, among others in different cities, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Conspirators stole identity information, such as names and Social Security numbers, to set up multiple cell phone accounts for relatives of Deardorff and other inmates at the Tipton Correctional Facility. The phones were used to receive calls from the prisoners from January 2002 through December 2006, according to the news release.

“Prisoners in the Missouri Department of Corrections are allowed to make calls while confined, but have to have a method to pay for the calls. Often this is done by making collect calls,” said Don Ledford, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Kelley, a former employee of the Missouri Department of Revenue, used the stolen identity information to purchase cell phone plans and phones and to open credit accounts, Ledford said.

Deardorff recruited others, including his wife, to steal identity information so he and other prisoners could make phone calls on fraudulently purchased cell phones, according to the news release.

“(Deardorff and other prisoners) could make calls from within the state prison to a local number and were forwarded to the cell phone,” Ledford said of plan, adding that the “cell phone company would eventually close the account.”

The other five charged conspirators are: Sprint PCS employee Angie M. Roark, 30, of New Bloomfield; Brenda M. Adams, 34, of Jefferson City; nursing home employee Robin L. Deardorff, 32, of Kansas City; Missouri Department of Revenue employee Krystal G. Stephens, 22, of Jefferson City; and United Telephone Company employee Anna M. Stephens, 31, of Jefferson City.

All seven that were charged pleaded guilty.

In addition to $80,000 in cell phone charges, the conspirators racked up an $80,000 bill in credit charges, Ledford said. Both Kelley and Deardorff were ordered to pay the damages of the scheme, $160,000, in restitution.

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