Altered VINs reportedly led to theft ring


Ericka Williams

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A tip from California authorities may have led police to a local ring of identity thieves who fudged identification numbers on high-dollar vehicles and had a cache of sensitive, personal information, police said Monday.

Investigators in California reached out to the Georgia Department of Revenue after they detected duplicate vehicle identification numbers in Lawrenceville. Gwinnett police tracked the activity to a family of three living on Sugarstone Drive near Discover Mills Mall, said Gwinnett police spokesman Cpl. Jake Smith.

At a home shared by Ericka Williams, her husband, Mark, and brother, Sean Blow, investigators found four stolen vehicles with "cloned" VINs that mirrored legitimate VINs on vehicles in other states, Smith said.

The vehicles included a BMW, Ford F-250, a Toyota Sequoia worth about $60,000 and a specialized Mercedes-AMG worth in excess of $100,000, Smith said.

Thieves using VINs from other states with vehicles already registered in Georgia is hardly a new trick, Smith said.

"Our motor-vehicle theft guys see it on a semi-common basis," he said.

Once inside the home, Smith said investigators found five fake IDs with Ericka Williams' photo and an array of names. In addition, police found lists of other people's names and Social Security Numbers in a notebook and other sensitive documents, such as credit card bills, Smith said.

All three are charged with altering VINs and theft by taking in connection with the vehicles. Smith said Ericka Williams faces an additional 10 charges of identity theft.

An agent with the Internal Revenue Service is assisting in the ongoing investigation, which will also focus on the house itself, Smith said.